What if you could use your Smartphone to diagnose diseases? It turns out you can!
Meet technological diagnosticians ELISA and MELISA. ELISA has been around since 1971, but MELISA was introduced to the world only this year, in April 2018.
ELISA stands for enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. (Try saying that three times fast.) It is a common laboratory test used “to quantitatively measure the concentration of a protein of interest in a sample solution.” Eva Engvall and Peter Perlman from Sweden invented the test and revolutionized medicine as we know it today.
Not only can ELISA detect proteins, the technique also identifies viruses and drugs. It’s a great tool “for determining trace amounts of proteins or peptides in a sample, for example, secretory proteins in culture media or soluble proteins in sera.”
Unfortunately, ELISA incubation and reading systems, up to now, have been both costly and bulky, keeping them from use in the field at the patient’s side.
That’s why researchers from the University of South Florida in Tampa invented MELISA, “a new miniature mobile phone based system for ELISA.”
This is exciting stuff. Weighing in at a mere one pound, it is low cost and portable. MELISA does everything ELISA does – and test results can be transmitted directly from a Smartphone.
Project team leader Professor Anna Pyayt explained what her team has accomplished:
“We used simple low-cost microcontrollers and 3D-printing to create a small $40 system that can attach to a mobile phone. It can be used to run all the steps of lab-based equipment that costs thousands of dollars.”
This invention is a tremendous breakthrough in providing low-cost diagnostic capabilities to not only impoverished, emerging and third-world countries, but older self-employed people in the United States who don’t earn enough to pay for “affordable” health insurance.
The portability feature of MELISA allows healthcare providers to offer point-of-service diagnostic analysis with rapid diagnosis and cure.
Among the impressive list of antigens MELISA can detect are:
• Lyme disease
• Proteins and hormones that flag certain diseases and cancers
Already tested successfully on progesterone, a female fertility hormone, MELISA trials continue with other important biomarkers. After Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, the new prototype will be ready for public sale.
But wait – there’s more. Smartphone-based early detection technologies exist for Parkinsons Disease, rapid infectious diseases like syphilis, eye cancer in newborn babies, and common respiratory diseases like pneumonia.
But wait – there’s even more. There’s a Smartphone diagnostic system called the mReader that can analyze 96 samples at one time! With a manufacturing cost of about $50 per unit, you can bet that this device will also be quite affordable. Once it goes into mass production, that price should come down.
Close your eyes and imagine a world with low-cost healthcare for everyone: young, old, male, female, rich, and poor. Now imagine yourself living in that world. Open your eyes. At the rate science is advancing, you won’t have to wait long for that dream to become a reality.