Digital microscopes can be used to detect cancer biomarker molecules, or to identify new drug candidates, and a team at the University of Sydney has developed an app that can be downloaded and used on any smartphone.
The team of researchers, led by Associate Professor Michael Rourke, developed a method for using the phone’s camera to scan for biomarker biomarkers.
“We have developed a tool that we can use on any phone, any device, that’s running Android or iOS, to find biomarker levels,” Associate Professor Rourke said.
“For example, we can scan the iPhone’s camera for cancer biomarking.
It’s not an entirely new thing, we’ve had this tool in the past, but the way we’re going about it is really exciting.”
The app, called Digital Microscope, works by scanning the display on a smartphone or tablet for a specific biomarker.
“When we see the biomarker, we know that we’re on to something, and we’re looking at it in a new way,” Associate Prof Rourke explained.
“There’s no need to take pictures or do a test.
We can actually scan the display for biomarkers that you or I can’t see.
The problem with this is that it’s not a fully automated way of finding biomarkers.”
Instead, the researchers developed a technology called a low-power optical sensor, which measures a small amount of light from the smartphone display.
It is capable of detecting biomarker level.
“It’s a small number of photons that we detect, so it’s very sensitive to that,” Associate Associate Professor Kelleher said.
This means that the method can detect biomarker concentrations up to 100 times more sensitive than standard methods.
“Our sensor is really sensitive and allows us to actually see biomarker concentration levels that we might not have previously seen,” Associate Vice-Chancellor of the University, Andrew Coker, said.
When the researchers used the technology on a sample from a cancer patient, the result was a large spike in the biomarkers level.
The technology has been successfully tested on a range of different samples from patients in various stages of treatment, including chemotherapy, radiation, and on tumour samples.
The app is currently available on Android and iOS, and is being developed by researchers at the National Cancer Centre in Melbourne, University of Melbourne, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
“It was very interesting to see how quickly we could detect biomarkers in the phone and what we could learn about cancer,” Associate Lecturer Kellehers said.
The project is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council, the National Science Foundation, the Australian Research Council and the Queensland Government.
Associate Professor Coker said that the project is part of the National Collaborative Research Network on Cancer Detection, which was set up in 2016 to address the challenge of detecting and understanding cancer biomarkered by smartphones and other wearable devices.