A handheld device inspired by Star Trek’s tricorder that is able to ‘quickly and accurately’ diagnose cancer and heart attacks is one step closer to becoming a reality.
Scientists claim the device could help make rapid, sophisticated medical diagnostics more accessible to people around the world.
The Glasgow University team’s ‘multicorder’ is made up of a handheld sensor that connects to a smartphone app and measures various small molecules in a patient’s bodily fluid.
By measuring these molecules, known as metabolites, scientists can track a patient’s overall heath or how a specific disease is progressing.
They claim the ability to rapidly detect multiple biomarkers at once makes the device ‘particularly useful’ for heart attacks, cancers and stroke, where a rapid diagnosis is vital for effective treatment.
A handheld device known as a multicorder is made up of a sensor that measures various small molecules in a patient’s bodily fluid. By measuring these molecules, known as metabolites, scientists can track a patient’s overall heath or how a specific disease is progressing
The device is inspired by Star Trek’s tricorder (pictured)
While metabolites can be measured via existing processes, such as nuclear magnetic resonance and mass spectrometry techniques, both are expensive and require bulky equipment that can be slow to produce results.
The new device is built around a form of a silicon chip that is cheap to produce and often used in imaging devices.
The chip, known as a complementary metal oxide semiconductor, is smaller than a fingernail and divided into multiple zones to detect and measure four metabolites at once from body fluid, including blood and urine.
The device can be operated via any Android-based tablet or smartphone.
This has clear parallels with Star Trek’s tricorder, which is a handheld device that scans the environment, analyses data and records information.
In the Star Trek franchise, tricorders are handheld devices that scan the environment, analyse data and record information
Lead author Dr Samadhan Patil said: ‘We have been able to detect and measure multiple metabolites associated with myocardial infarction, or heart attack, and prostate cancer simultaneously using this device.
‘This device has potential to track progression of the disease in its early phase and is ideally suited for the subsequent prognosis’.
Professor David Cumming, who was also involved in the research, said: ‘Handheld, inexpensive diagnostic devices capable of accurately measuring metabolites open up a wide range of applications for medicine, and with this latest development we’ve taken an important step closer to bringing such a device to market.
‘It’s an exciting breakthrough and we’re keen to continue building on the technology we’ve developed so far.’
The findings were published in the journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics.
It is unclear when exactly the device may be available.
Professor Mike Barrett, from the University’s School of Life Sciences, added: ‘This new handheld device offers democratisation of metabolomics, which is otherwise confined within the laboratory, and offers low cost alternative to study complex pathways in different diseases’.
The sensor connects to a smartphone app that can be operated via any Android-based tablet or smartphone. This records information based on a patient’s blood and urine samples