One Drop of Blood Needed to Diagnose Diseases: rHealth

For the last two years, the US $2.25 million Nokia Sensing X Challenge has attracted newcomers from around the world to submit groundbreaking technologies that improve healthcare.  This year a panel of experts have granted the grand prize to Massachusetts based DNA Medical Institute (DMI), whose handheld device is capable of diagnosing certain conditions and ailments within minutes, with only one drop of blood.

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There were many applicants, but DMI was narrowed down into a group of 11 finalists.  Among them were a Swiss team Biovotion, whose wearable computer monitorsvital signs such as heart rate and breathing, also a US based Eigen Lifescience team, whose low-cost, portable device is capable of testing for Hepatitis B in less than 10 minutes, but it was DMI’s Reusable Handheld Electrolye and Lab Technology for Humans system (rHealth) that impressed the judges the most.

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Here’s how it works:  One tiny drop of blood is placed into a tiny receptacle, where nanostrips and reagents react to the blood’s contents.  Then it proceeds to go through a turn micro-mixer and is streamed past lasers that use variations in light energy which identify illnesses from influenza, to more critical illnesses such as pneumonia or even Ebola.

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Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, chairman and CEO of X Prize, the foundation behind the competition said “Our expert judging panel reviewed a very exciting group of sensing technologies, all with potential to address a wide array of diagnostic and personal health needs”, “DMI’s rHealth system embodies the original goal for the Nokia Sensing X Challenge, to advance sensor technology in a way that will enable faster diagnoses and easier, more sophisticated personal health monitoring.”

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The Reusable Handheld Electrolyte and Lab Technology for Humans (rHealth) is a portable handheld device that can currently conduct up to 22 lab tests from a single drop of blood.  The representatives from the DMI team were ecstatic about winning but said that their main objective is to bring modern medicine to the billions of people who currently have little access to medical care.  Though it may be a while before we get our hands on the consumer version of the rHealth, the technology has many investors and scientific organizations interested in its technology.  rHealth was originally designed for NASA and with space travel in mind.  DMI produced two other diagnostic instruments under the rHealth label but those are intended more for researchers and laboratory use.  Last year’s winner, the Nanobiosym Health Radar is similar to rHealth.  “To be selected from such an impressive group of worthy competitors is extremely humbling, said DMI CEO Dr. Eugene Chan.  As the winners of the Sensing X Challenge, DMI will be taking home a whopping $525,000.

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