Cholesterol App: Smartphones Are Evolving Into Medical Devices

Monday, 23 Dec 2013 09:12 AM

By Michael Mullins

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A cholesterol app being developed by researchers at Cornell University is another example of how smartphone-based diagnostics can be used to provide medical feedback to patients and their doctors.

The app, called SmartCARD, short for Smartphone Cholesterol Application for Rapid Diagnostics, will be able to measure one's cholesterol a minute after the test is conducted.

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Much like other cholesterol tests, the SmartCARD app requires the user to prick his or her finger and dab a blood droplet onto a test strip that is then fed into slot of an attachment located above the smartphone's camera. A photo of the blood is then taken for analysis by the app, ABC News reported.

"The real advantage of things like smartphone-based diagnostics is that it gives feedback when people want it," David Erickson, a professor of mechanical engineering at Cornell, told ABC News. "It has all the other smartphone features built into it, like tracking cholesterol over time and being able to take notes."

"Everyone already carries a smartphone, and that gives you an incredible amount of hardware and computational power in your pocket all the time," Erickson added.

In the most recent issue of the journal Lab on a Chip, the app's developers claim the device can accurately quantify the blood's total cholesterol levels within 60 seconds of when the test strip is photographed.

A cardiologist at the University Hospital Case Medical Center in Ohio, Dr. Sri Krishna Madan Mohan, was not sold.

"Unlike something like sugar levels or blood thickness, [cholesterol] isn't something that fluctuates from minute to minute, or even from month to month," Mohan told ABC News. "If I start treating you, I'd recheck [your cholesterol] in three months to see if the treatment had any effect."

Mohan added that one of the app's problems is that is doesn’t differentiate between good and bad cholesterol, or HDL and LDL.

"If I have a cholesterol level of 200, it could be 180 good and 20 bad, or 180 bad and 20 good," Mohan added. "It's important to measure the levels of each type of cholesterol."

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