Biosensing Gets Smart
Australian researchers harness the power of smartphone biosensing – without the need for specialized components
Stephanie Sutton |
Many have attempted to couple ingenious technology with smartphones to create portable analytical or diagnostic platforms. But because such innovations rely on specialized add-ons, researchers from Macquarie University in Australia wanted to take a novel approach for their fluorescence based biosensor.
“We wanted to create a biosensing device that could test biological samples for levels of trypsin and collagenase – clinically relevant biomarkers found in high concentration in many human diseases including arthritis, cystic fibrosis, acute pancreatitis and other clinical diseases,” says Ewa Goldys, a professor at the university and deputy director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Nanoscale Biophotonics. “However, it was important that our device had a minimal number of commonly available components. The device needed to be able to be built anywhere in a truly cost effective fashion. A specialized add-on creates additional expense and logistics issues.”
And so Goldys and her colleagues developed a device that uses readily available components – a tablet, a polarizer, a smartphone (camera) and a box that provides dark readout conditions – to perform fluorescence based tests (1). “The assay in a well plate is placed on the tablet screen, which acts as an excitation source. A polarizer on top of the well plate separates excitation light from assay fluorescence emission, enabling readout with a smartphone camera,” explains Goldys. “It can be used anywhere – at the bed-side, in doctors clinics and surgeries, and in remote locations that are far away from expensively equipped laboratories.”
Goldys is passionate about the future relationship between smartphones and analytical science. “Seventy percent of a standard laptop’s capability is now available in our phones and it’s an exciting time as researchers realize that consumer electronics have the capacity to be reconfigured for a variety of purposes,” she says.
“The wider application of diagnostic tools will help people get health related advice far more quickly than was previously the case, which is critically important for many diseases, especially those that need to be diagnosed rapidly.”
- P. Wargocki et al., “Medically Relevant Assays with a Simple Smartphone and Tablet Based Fluorescence Detection System,” Sensors, 5, 11653-11664 (2015).