Professors Patrick Mercier and Joseph Wang, are leading a team from the University of California, San Diego and have made a 3D printed phone case called the GPhone that has the ability to analyze blood. The device is in the prototype phase as of now and can be fitted over the phone. The device uses the phone’s battery for its power.
A reusable sensor is placed at one corner of the GPhone and is connected to a printed circuit board. A removable stylus is mounted on the side of the case. The stylus is packed with single-use pellets, which are dispensed one at a time.
The device works when the user uses the stylus to put one of the pellets on the sensor which is kept in place by a magnet. The sensor powers up when it comes in contact with the pellet. Afterwards, a sample of blood is placed on the pellet. The pellet contains an enzyme called glucose oxidase and this reacts with the glucose in the blood by generating an electric signal.
The signal strength is directly proportional to the concentration of glucose in the blood and is measured by the electrodes on the sensor. The collected data is transmitted to the phone via Bluetooth where it can be viewed by a custom Android app. These reading accumulate over time and can serve as patient history to share with a physician.
It only takes 20 seconds to perform the test and you can simply discard the pellet and throw it away once completed, deactivating the sensor. Even though the technology sounds fascinating and convenient, there are a couple of things that could still be improved.
First of all the price of these pellets will be higher than the paper strips used in conventional test kits. Furthermore, the test required 12 drops of blood each time and the researchers are currently working on that to bring the number down.
We might see this GPhone technology being built directly into smartphones in the future. This will be a huge convenience for diabetic patients who will be able to check their glucose level on the go.