We’re using our smartphones for everything these days, but what if a smartphone could even be used to analyse your DNA and therefore tell pretty much tell everything about you? It seems that this will soon be possible, as Quartz is reporting that scientists have built a Mobile device that can do this exact thing. Well, not the phone yet, but close to it as it’s essentially a DNA analyzing kit that is connected to your phone.
Now you might wonder why this is such a big deal, but if you consider that many years ago DNA samples had to be sent away to large laboratories to get analysed in what was a lengthy and very expensive process. Now that can be checked accurately from a phone – and that’s remarkable. There are a lot of very cool things that can be done with this technology, other than just detecting bad guys. There is the obvious security angel that to could offer where a device can only work when the right owners DNA is attached to it, but perhaps the biggest breakthrough will be on the medical front.
It’s the kind of technology that can be used by doctors to look at your DNA and determine your history, what you are likely resistant to and be able to diagnose you more accurately or prescribe the right medication for your body. Instead of doctors having to wait weeks to get this feedback, they would be able to do it instantly from their phones.
So, you might be curious ho this all works, so I’ll try and break it down to you without going into the specifics of DNA. You can google that all on your own. Stockholm University took a sample of human tissue and could analyze it in a specifically designed attachment which they had connected to a Lumia 1020 smartphone (which I’m sure will annoy Apple and Android purists). The scientist places the tissue sample inside the attachment. As DNA is too small to capture on a camera, an enzyme is used to multiply it 1000 times before a set of chemicals is added which makes it fluorescent. Lastly, the attachment will shine two different lasers on the mixture and with all those DNA snippets emitting light, a smartphone camera will now be able to detect the DNA and it can be analysed correctly.
To be fair, it’s still a complicated process and the device is far too bulky or expensive to be used by anyone other than expensive hospitals, but it is still significant progress in DNA processing. The technology is far away from becoming mainstream, but that a cellphone can be used to drastically improve the ability to save lives is fantastic and just further adds to the innovative usage that we can get out of these powerful devices. I’m sure as the technology improves, it will branch out to police, security companies and eventually become part of our daily lives. Though the thought of someone cloning me based off DNA they scanned from my phone is still pretty scary.
Let’s focus on the positive medical benefits for now before reaching too far into the sci-fi realm.