British researchers are developing a sci-fi-like medical diagnostic device using common semiconductors from digital cameras.
A team based at the University of Glasgow has received a £3m grant to develop a compact, portable tool capable of detecting about 100 markers in blood or saliva. According to the project leader Professor David Cumming, the tool would work similarly to commonly used pregnancy tests or glucose monitors providing rapid feedback while at the same time being able to diagnose a multitude of conditions.
"What we're hoping is that we'll be able to replicate the capabilities of a whole lab in a single handheld device, making it much easier for doctors, paramedics and other medical professionals to make effective diagnoses,” Cumming said.
Resembling the famous device used for keeping the space crews in the popular Star Trek saga in shape and healthy, the real-life medical tricorder would at the first place aim at medical professionals in developing countries and remote regions but could also be used for home diagnostics.
"For countries in the developing world where access to laboratory tests can be limited, multicorder technology could mean the difference between life and death for patients," said Cumming.
Compared to its movie predecessor capable of detecting diseases from the distance, the real-life tricorder, at least at this stage, will be less advanced and would require samples of bodily fluids or tissues to perform its task.
The research is being funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and is expected to produce results in four years.