A selfie for your health

A new smartphone device can measure cholesterol and vitamin D levels

Your smartphone can now check your vitamin D and cholesterol levels.

(Inside Science TV) – From selfies, to games, to measuring heart rate and calories burned, today's smartphone apps can do a lot of things.

Now, researchers at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York have developed a device that can add testing cholesterol and vitamin D levels to your phone's already impressive list of functions.

"What this is really about is enabling you to obtain health information about yourself quickly," said David Erickson, a biomedical engineer at Cornell.

Using a device that looks like a credit card reader and that fits over a smartphone camera users are able to get cholesterol and vitamin D level results from a single drop of blood.

“In two minutes it spits out…what your cholesterol level is today, right now," said Erickson.

To work the device, a user drops a blood sample on a test strip laced with chemicals designed to react a certain way. Then, the user takes a picture of the test strip with his or her smartphone. The device processes the image of the blood reacting to the test strip, determines cholesterol or vitamin D levels from that image, and displays the results.

The technology also works with drops of saliva or sweat.

“It gives you information about your healthcare very rapidly, secondly it does it much cheaper,” Erickson said.

Researchers expect to make the device affordable and available to consumers in a few years.

“We wanted a simple system that allows you to measure your levels at home," explained Seoho Lee, a mechanical engineering student at Cornell.

Researchers are also developing the technology to give test results for other vitamins and infectious diseases.

Reprinted with permission from Inside Science, an editorially independent news product of the American Institute of Physics, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing, promoting and serving the physical sciences.