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New smartphone technology puts a doctor in your pocket

Sunday, Jan 29, 2012 - 02:41

Jan. 30 - Backed by government funding, South Korean scientists have developed new cell-phone technology designed to diagnose disease. A team at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology says that when its technology is commercialized, it will revolutionize diagnostic medicine around the world. Tara Cleary reports.

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Smartphones are no longer just phones, they're mini-computers. And a team of Korean scientists is about to take the technology into another realm - disease diagnosis. Professor Park Hyun-Gyu says his team's research will enable cell phones to diagnose a range of diseases from cancer to diabetes. Laboratory experiments have demonstrated that a droplet of blood or saliva on a Smartphone's touchscreen can produce an instant diagnosis. The technology was developed on the basis of the touchscreen's capacity to detect the minute electrical signals generated by a fingertip's touch. That ability is called "capacitive sensitivity." Park says biomolecules, like those produced by diseases, transmit similar signals that a touchscreen can recognise. SOUNDBITE: PARK HYUN-GYU, KOREA ADVANCED INSTITUTE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, SAYING: "If you have a certain type of DNA or proteins, the touchscreen would react in the same way as a finger's electrical signal is detected." Park says his team is the first to demonstrate that a touchscreen can be used to detect biomolecules. He says the recognition rate is nearly 100 percent accurate and is as effective as conventional medical equipment. But researcher Won Byoung-Yeon says more work needs to be done before the technology is perfected. SOUNDBITE: WON BYOUNG-YEON, KOREA ADVANCED INSTITUTE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, SAYING: "Currently, we've reached the level where we can detect certain biomolecules' existence or concentration, but we can't define what the biomolecule is. Therefore, we're producing a film covered in a substance which can selectively react to certain biomolecules so that we can determine what those biomolecules are." Once it's moved beyond the laboratory, the team believes the technology could transform diagnostic techniques, and save billions in healthcare costs. It could be applied to inexpensively diagnose diseases in environments like nursing homes or mobile clinics, and radically reduce the necessity and expense of sending samples to a lab for testing. The International telecommunications Union says billions of people use cell phones around the world every day. The idea of exposing their touchscreens to saliva or blood samples may not appeal to many, but according to Park's team the practice will one day save time, money and lives. Tara Cleary, Reuters.

New smartphone technology puts a doctor in your pocket

Sunday, Jan 29, 2012 - 02:41

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