• Smartphones used to detect cancer

Researchers at Washington State University have developed a low-cost, portable smartphone spectrometer which can simultaneously analyse several samples to identify and flag cancer biomarkers.

The technology is the first smartphone spectrometer which can analyse up to eight samples at once, and accurately identifies human interleukin-6 (IL-6) 99% of the time. Human interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a known biomarker for lung, prostate, liver, breast and epithelial cancers.

Checking for this marker using a portable spectrometer would allow for quicker processing of results outside of a hospital setting.

Lei Li, who led the research team, said: “With our eight channel spectrometer, we can put eight different samples to do the same test, or one sample in eight different wells to do eight different tests. This increases our device's efficiency."

"The spectrometer would be especially useful in clinics and hospitals that have a large number of samples without on-site labs, or for doctors who practice abroad or in remote areas," he said. "They can't carry a whole lab with them. They need a portable and efficient device."

The research team’s technology currently works with the iPhone 5, but they are creating an adaptable version that will work with any smartphone. A provisional patent has been filed for the work.