Today’s touchscreens have a much higher sensitivity than what is actually required for most smartphone activities. Park said, “Since these touchscreens can detect very small capacitance changes we thought they could serve as highly sensitive detection platforms for disease biomarkers.”
In order to test their theory, Park and Won applied three solutions that contained differing concentrations of DNA from the bacteria that causes chlamydia to a multi-touch display the size of an iPhone screen. What they found was, the touch-sensing electrodes on the screen were able to distinguish between the electric charges of each sample even though they only used a very small amount. While it is not able to identify individual pathogens, they view this test as a successful first step toward achieving their goal.
The biggest hurdle to making this technology a reality is that the software used to eliminate false-touch signals, commonly caused by sweat or moisture, would need to be modified. Harpal Minhas, editor of the journal Lab On A Chip, admitted, “Any changes to current production-line touchscreens would need to demonstrate huge financial benefits before they are implemented."
This isn’t something we expect to see very soon, but it is a fascinating look into the medical possibilities of mobile technology. For those of you that like the idea of quick, private self-diagnoses, but not the idea of spitting or putting other ‘samples’ on your phone, Park also says that he intends to develop a film that can be adhered to the touchscreen for testing because “Nobody wants direct application of bio-samples onto their phone.” We couldn’t agree more.
source: NewScientist via Textually