Scientists develop Star Trek-inspired device

Posted on 12 Oct 2018 and read 939 times
Scientists develop Star Trek-inspired device A hand-held device based on a silicon chip could help make rapid yet sophisticated medical diagnostics more accessible to people around the world.

In a new paper published in the journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics, researchers from the University of Glasgow ( describe the latest development in their ‘multicorder’ project, inspired by Star Trek’s famous tricorder device (pictured), which the show’s medics use to make quick and accurate diagnoses.

The new device pairs a hand-held sensor with a smartphone app to measure the levels of various metabolites in patients’ fluid samples.

By measuring and monitoring their relative abundance, scientists can keep track of general heath or the progression
of specific diseases.

The ability to rapidly detect and quantify multiple metabolite biomarkers simultaneously makes this device particularly useful in cases of heart attack, cancer and strokes, where rapid diagnosis is vital for effective treatment.

While metabolites can be measured by existing processes such as nuclear magnetic resonance and hyphenated mass spectrometry, both approaches are costly and require bulky equipment that can be slow to offer diagnostic results.

The researchers’ new device is built around a new CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) chip. CMOS chips are inexpensive to produce and are often used in imaging devices.

The chip — smaller than a fingertip — is divided into multiple reaction zones to detect and quantify four metabolites simultaneously from a body fluid (such as urine).

The device can be operated via any Android-based tablet or smartphone.

Samadhan Patil of the University of Glasgow’s School of Engineering — lead author on the paper — said: “We have been able to detect and measure multiple metabolites associated with heart attacks and prostate cancer simultaneously, using this device.

“It has the potential to track progression of the disease in its early phase and is ideally suited for the subsequent prognosis.”

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