Handheld Prototype Developed To Give More People Access to Life-saving Medical Testing

Achievement date: 

Researchers at Texas A&M University (TAMU) have successfully developed a preliminary Lab in your Palm (LiyP) prototype of a mobile phone-size handheld device that enables more affordable and readily available testing for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The technology aims to give more people life-saving information that otherwise would require costly¾and sometimes inaccessible¾in-hospital testing. This work is being supported by the NSF-funded Precise Advanced Technologies and Health Systems for Underserved Populations (PATHS-UP) Engineering Research Center (ERC), headquartered at TAMU, with partners from the University of California at Los Angeles, Rice University, and Florida International University.


PATHS-UP focuses on engineering transformative, robust, and affordable, technologies and systems to improve healthcare access, enhance the quality of life and healthcare service, and reduce the cost of healthcare in underserved populations which often include the most at-risk populations for disease. Both diabetes and cardiovascular disease are major threats to human health and there is growing demand for a portable, rapid, and low cost biosensing to facilitate early diagnosis of disease without having to rely on hospital visits where expensive and time-consuming laboratory tests are often recommended. The LiyP is a handheld engineered system to monitor key biomarkers (biochemical, biophysical, and behavioral) of chronic disease to enable effective, timely treatment. This project included developing the mobile device, identifying the types of tests with greatest potential benefit and how the device can perform them, and stakeholder surveys to help assure usability.


Antibodies can clump together cells or particles in a process called agglutination. Agglutination can be used as an indicator of the presence of antibodies against bacteria or red blood cells. The LiyP is an agglutination assay reader providing mobile phone imaging of 100 nanometer gold nanoparticles. The reader is the approximate shape of a smartphone and contains a touchscreen interface, single-board computer, and a small microscope. The agglutination assay takes place in a paper-based microfluidic sensor also developed by PATHS-UP, and the image data is taken and evaluated by the internal computer.

C-reactive protein (CRP) is associated with inflammation and cardiovascular disease and was this project’s initial target biomarker. CRP is routinely measured in hospitals; however, highly sensitive quantification of CRP is done with large and costly centralized equipment (e.g., laser nephelometry) and largely inaccessible to underserved populations. Research is now being conducted to upgrade the PATHS-UP LiyP with a sample pre-processing step which will extract serum from whole blood to eliminate the requirement of a centrifuge.