April 23, 2018

For Your Christmas List of the Future: Food Allergy Smartphone Dock

People with food allergies must be extra-vigilant at all times to make sure they don’t accidentally ingest ingredients that could make them sick. Some people have allergies so severe that a tenth of a milligram can cause anaphylaxis, which can block airways and cause cardiac arrest. In fact, most food recalls are triggered by undeclared allergens in processed foods.

Scientists are working to understand food allergies and help those with this condition stay safe. The latest interesting gizmo in the food allergy world is a food allergy smartphone dock. Researchers at UCLA are working on the device, called the “iTube”, which can detect chemical traces of many common food allergens, including peanuts, almonds, eggs, hazelnuts, and gluten. The sensitivity of the test is equivalent to a laboratory test.

Food samples are ground up and mixed in a test tube with “hot water and extraction solvent”. The mixture is combined with other “reactive testing liquids”, then is run through the platform, using the cell phone camera and a smart application. The test can also quantify how much of the allergen is present in parts per million.

Aydogan Ozcan, a UCLA associate professor of electrical engineering and bioengineering, and the leader of the research team, said in a statement, “we envision that this cell phone-based allergen testing platform could be very valuable, especially for parents, as well as for schools, restaurants, and other public settings.”

Data generated from testing could be uploaded to create a “personalized testing archive”, which could eventually become a database for people with allergies around the world. Stay tuned; this device may be coming to a store near you.

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