A little white box that plugs into your mobile phone could potentially save thousands, possibly millions of lives around the globe someday. Time Warner Cable News tech reporter Adam Balkin filed this report.
Developed at Columbia University, the mChip works with a phone to test blood for STDs. Initially, it is only able to test for HIV and syphilis.
“The way it works is that you would prick your finger just like a diabetes test and then the drop of blood would go into a sample holder, which snaps into a plastic card that slides into your smartphone accessory. You then follow the instructions on the app, you press a button on the smartphone accessory and then you get your results 15 minutes later, either displayed on the phone or sent to your doctor," says Sam Sia of Columbia University’s Biomedical Engineering Department.
While the technology would for the most part make things easier and more convenient for people living in United States, developers say they’re actually eyeing places where this technology would be more of a necessity.
The first field studies of the device were done at health clinics in Rwanda.
“There, the patients don’t have any access to diagnostics,” says Sia. “In this particular patient population, pregnant women, if you can actually diagnose HIV and syphilis and treat them, then they will not pass on these diseases to their newborns - which otherwise would cause a lot of deaths actually. The treatment is quite inexpensive, so there’s a real compelling argument for doing this in a global health setting."
Another promising feature of the technology, if and when it becomes available, it’ll be very affordable. The reusable dongle that does the diagnostics costs just about $35 to produce. The single use testing cartridges that plug in and hold the blood cost about a $1.50. Aside from STDs, developers say down the line, they hope it can be used to detect everything from Lyme disease to diabetes, to even cancer.