Smartphones are capable of giving us directions when we're lost, sending photos and videos to our friends in mere seconds, and even helping us find the best burger joint in a three-mile radius. But University of Houston researchers are using smartphones for another very important function: diagnosing diseases in real time.
The researchers are developing a disease diagnostic system that offers results that could be read using only a smartphone and a $20 lens attachment.
The system is the brainchild of Jiming Bao, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Richard Willson, Huffington-Woestemeyer Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. It was created through grants from the National Institutes of Health and The Welch Foundation, and was featured in February in ACS Photonics.
This new device, like essentially all diagnostic tools, relies on specific chemical interactions that form between something that causes a disease a virus or bacteria, for example and a molecule that bonds with that one thing only, like a disease-fighting antibody. A bond that forms between a strep bacteria and an antibody that interacts only with strep, for instance, can support an ironclad diagnosis.
The trick is finding a way to detect these chemical interactions quickly, cheaply and easily. The solution proposed by Bao and Willson involves a simple glass slide and a thin film of gold with thousands of holes poked in it.
Creating this slide is itself an achievement. This task, led by Bao, starts with a standard slide covered in a light-sensitive material known as a photoresist. He next uses a laser to create a series of interference fringes basically lines on the slide, and then rotates it 90 degrees and creates another series of interference fringes. The intersections of these two sets of lines creates a fishnet pattern of UV exposure on the photoresist. The photoresist is then developed and washed awa
|Contact: Jeannie Kever|
University of Houston