Health IT

Researchers devise a smartphone camera clip-on and app for at-home cholesterol testing

1218_13_019.CR2Here’s another addition to the list of at-home health tests that people might soon be able to do with a smartphone: Engineers at Cornell University have come up with a way for people to check their own cholesterol using an iPhone app and attachment.

FDA-cleared at-home cholesterol tests have been around for awhile and are relatively cheap. The researchers say the problem is that technology needed to read test strips can be expensive and hard to use.

In an advanced article published online by Lab on a Chip, David Erickson and colleagues detail their smartphone cholesterol application for rapid diagnostics (smartCARD) system that reads reagent strips and delivers a total cholesterol reading.

The attachment includes a light diffuser that goes over the iPhone’s camera flash and a test strip holding slot that goes over the camera. Users put a drop of blood on the strip, feed it into the holding slot and take a photo. The app analyzes the colorimetric changes on the strip that are caused by cholesterol’s enzymatic reaction to the testing strip. In early tests, the developers said the system’s readings were generally accurate within 3 percent of readings from a traditional device.


The technology is interesting, but I wonder about the use case for this particular kind of remote monitoring and the value of the information the device generates. As Sri Krishna Madan Mohan, a cardiologist at University Hospitals Cleveland, pointed out to ABC News, cholesterol doesn’t fluctuate as much as something like blood sugar levels, so it doesn’t need to be checked often. Popular Science also outlined a few regulatory hurdles for such a product.

You can read the full paper here.

 [Image credit: Cornell]