By: Pooja Jaeel

A research team at University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign are making strides at taking biodetection, “outside the laboratory.” Led by Professor Brian Cunningham, the team has created an iPhone app and optics-sensitive cradle that enables scientists to test for biological markers, such as proteins or DNA.

The team augmented the photographic ability of the iPhone with it’s own optical components that detect specific color wavelengths. These components, averaging around $200 in equipment costs, are all housed in a compact iPhone cradle.

The user-friendly interface guides scientists through the biodetection process. A regular microscope slide is coated with a specific photonic crystal; once a biological material attaches onto the crystal surface, the reflected wavelength shifts slightly.

The scientist can then insert the sample and slide into the iPhone cradle and visualize the transmitted and reflected spectrum of the photonic crystal. The results are then compared to the standardized quantity and type of substance to detect the presence of the desired biomarker.

The whole process is projected to be done within a few minutes and at 0.4% of the cost of a full lab analysis. Soon researchers will be able to gather data on the spread of contamination, diagnose patients, and chart the progression of epidemics while working on the ground.

For example, the research team is currently working on using the device to monitor levels of Vitamin A for prenatal women and young children.

The next steps in the team’s research include creating a similar app for Android phones and improving on the functionality of the cradle.

Source: BioOptics World