Star Trek-inspired diagnostic device developed for medical applications

Researchers from the University of Glasgow developed a multicorder that was inspired by Star Trek’s tricorder device. The multicorder uses sensors to make quick and accurate diagnoses.

By University of Glasgow September 29, 2018

Researchers from the University of Glasgow developed a multicorder, which was inspired by Star Trek’s famous tricorder device. The multicorder is a handheld device designed to help make rapid and sophisticated medical diagnostics more accessible to people around the world. The device pairs a handheld sensor with a smartphone app to measure the levels of various metabolites in fluid samples from patients.

Metabolites are small molecules found in fluids from the human body. 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 stroke, where rapid diagnosis is vital for effective treatment.

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

The researchers’ device is built around a complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) chip, which are often used in imaging devices. The chip is smaller than a fingertip and is divided into multiple reaction zones to detect and quantify four metabolites simultaneously from body fluid such as serum or urine. The device can be operated via any Android-based tablet or smartphone which provides data acquisition, computation, visualization, and power.

Dr. Samadhan Patil of the University of Glasgow’s School of Engineering 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, Principal Investigator of the project from University’s School of Engineering 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."

Professor Mike Barrett of the University’s School of Life Sciences said: "This new handheld device offers democratization of metabolomics, which is otherwise confined within the laboratory, and offers low cost alternative to study complex pathways in different diseases."

– Edited from a University of Glasgow press release by CFE Media. See more Control Engineering sensor and vision stories.