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Scientists develop cancer-detecting smartphone laboratory

By Ryan Maass
Scientists develop cancer-detecting smartphone laboratory
The portable laboratory is currently configured with an iPhone 5, but a more versatile design is being developed. Photo by Washington State University.

PULLMAN, Wash., Oct. 18 (UPI) -- Washington State University researchers have developed a cancer-detecting smartphone spectrometer they say will greatly speed up diagnosis.

The low-cost smartphone was designed to be completely portable while producing lab-quality results. A paper on the product and its potential applications was published in Biosensors and Bioelectronics.

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The product's developers say their new device works by measuring levels of interleukin-6, a biomarker associated with prostate, liver, breast and epithelial cancers. The phone comes equipped with a spectrometer that analyzes the amount and type of chemicals by examining the light spectrum. The research team says their new device will be able to generate instant diagnoses anywhere, including emergency rooms, an ambulance or a physician's office.

WSU investigators note that, while portable spectrometers already exist, their smartphone's 8-channel infrastructure can measure up to 8 samples at a time.

"The spectrometer would be especially useful in clinics and hospitals that have a large number of samples without on-site labs, or for doctors who practice abroad or in remote areas," lead researcher Lei Li said in a press release. "They can't carry a whole lab with them. They need a portable and efficient device."

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The current design works with an iPhone 5, and was recorded to be 99 percent accurate. The research team is now using the device in real world situations. An adjustable design able to connect with any smartphone is currently being developed.

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