September 6, 2012
A team of researchers is developing an experimental smartphone-based device that could diagnose HIV and measure CD4 cell counts in remote areas far away from laboratories.
The Smartscope is a 1-millimeter microscope and light that is placed over a smartphone's camera. A standard chip with a blood sample is slid in front of the microscope, and images captured are analyzed by an application that is on the smartphone itself. A similar US-developed prototype can take the tests in the field; however, the information must be sent to a computer for analysis.
"Our idea was to obtain images and analyze images on this smartphone using applications," said Jung Kyung Kim, a biomedical engineering professor at Kookmin University in South Korea. "Its basic function is to count those CD4 cells for diagnosis."
Trials of the Smartscope in clinics could begin next year, said Kim. The device will be targeted to remote South African and Swazi communities where clinics often lack testing technology.
"In community health, mobile technology is not a gimmick," said study partner Jannie Hugo, head of family medicine at the University of Pretoria. "It becomes an essential part of access."