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How the iPhone’s Camera can help with Simple Health Tests

Among the Apple gadgets, the iPhone has served a few times for purposes that go beyond technology, often touching the medical area – we even commented on studies that used the iPhone to gauge both someone’s blood pressure, 3D Touch, as for blood pressure, through the rear camera.

The iPhone’s camera has once again been the target of scientists who have developed a method for obtaining health test data through a porous silicon ribbon that, when illuminated by the device’s rear camera flash, differentiates samples of body fluids to obtain results of “exams”.

Like any examination, the process consists of two parts: one manual and the other analysis. First, the researchers at Vanderbilt University in the United States, triggered the flash of an iPhone SE and started a video recording; three minutes after the start of the recording (time required for the light to stabilize), a sample is placed in front of the camera, recorded for one minute and then removed.

What happens during the recording period is somewhat similar to a mass spectrometry test, whose purpose is quantitative (and non-qualitative) analysis of cells. Thus, when inserting a particular sample on the silicon ribbon, it will have two reactions: keep the original tint or darken, indicating a possible change of the test.

As for analyzing the recorded data, the researchers plan to develop an app that can manipulate the data collected to confirm if the film has darkened because of the addition of the fluid, as seen in the video below:

According to the research paper, which will be published by the Royal Society of Chemistry, this method “could replace a mass spectrometry system that costs thousands of dollars.” The technology could also be used for personal safety by helping someone detect traces of dangerous substances in beverages, for example.

Presumably, commercial use of this method for all users of iPhones would require an app and, of course, the permission of health agencies and sanitary surveillance to be distributed. However, the promise of researchers is to develop a unique spectrometric tool that would replace several disposable tests.

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Hassan Abbas

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