ELISA tests (enzyme-linked immunosorbant assays) are a standard in clinical laboratories for spotting antibodies that point to the presence of various diseases. The machines that analyze the ELISA plate samples are the size of desktop printers, and are not particularly portable if you want to use them outside the clinic. Now researchers at UCLA have developed a scaled down ELISA microplate reader that uses a standard smartphone for imaging, remote processing, and result readout. And it doesn’t cost thousands of dollars, while providing results comparable to professionally used equipment.
The device has room for 96 samples that are placed within an array of tiny wells. A set of LED lights illuminates the samples, while optic fibers below each sample direct the light to pass to the phone’s camera in tight beams. The phone is used to take pictures of the incoming light using a special app, which then automatically uploads these to remote servers that have the horsepower to process the images. Once that is done, the results are returned back to the app and displayed to the user. The whole process takes only a few minutes, with the results coming back from the servers within about only one minute.
When the researchers compared the device against real samples tested by UCLA’s own clinical lab’s ELISA readers, the smartphone powered device had “99.6 percent accuracy in diagnosing mumps, 98.6 percent for measles, and 99.4 percent each for herpes simplex 1 and 2,” according to UCLA.