New app can turn a smartphone into food allergy detector
Do prawns make you puke? Do you go into anaphylactic shock at the mere sight of a cashew? Well, scientists at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign are developing a handheld biosensor that could turn your iPhone into a device able to test for food allergies.
The cradle device and app can transform a smartphone into a sensor that can carry out complicated tests that would otherwise need to take place in lab. For example, if you’re allergic to nuts but are offered an unidentified biscuit, you would put a sample into a plastic vial and run it through the cradles’ biosensor. Then the phone would be able to tell you whether you’d be OK to eat it - or whether you were going to be on the floor clutching your throat within minutes.
As well as food allergies, the technology could be used to test for other types of illness. The sensor rules out the need for full blood tests and long waits for results. All that’s needed is a fingerprint of blood, mixed with fluid, and the biosensor can be used by doctors to quickly diagnose disease on the spot. It could also be used by environmentalists to measure contamination.
Another food allergen sensor – called the iTube - was developed at UCLA in 2012 but preparing the test took 20 minutes. With this one you just shake that vial and find out whether that cookie will kill you. Easy!