Smartphones to be adapted to monitor and manage stress, nutrition
and HIV infection
20 August 2014
A multidisciplinary team headed by Cornell University has been
awarded a $3million grant to combine microfluidics and smartphone
technology for health monitoring and improving patient engagement in
The program, called PHeNoM for Public Health, Nanotechnology, and
Mobility, consists of researchers from Cornell, Cornell NYC Tech,
Cornell Weill Medical College, the University of Maryland and the
University of California Los Angeles. The aim of the project is to
enable earlier detection of disease and allow patients to take
better control of their own health and wellbeing by integrating
technology with social contexts of healthcare.
PHeNoM will take advantage of the advancements in nanotechnology
and microfluidics that have led to lab-on-chip devices that can
detect and quantify protein, genetic, and other biochemical markers
of diseases with precision. According to the award application, the
goals of the project are to "demonstrate that deployment of
lab-on-chip technology can be fundamentally altered by taking
advantage of ubiquitous smartphone technology and show that the
fusion of physical sensing and molecular assays on mobile platforms
enable healthcare diagnostics that are more informative than either
The project will develop three systems that can have an immediate
impact on personal healthcare: a Stress-Phone for long term stress
management, a Nutri-Phone for nutritional awareness and a Hema-Phone
for monitoring viral loading in HIV positive patients.
PHeNoM will build on research started by project lead David
Erickson, Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at
Cornell University. With the help of a seed grant from Cornell’s
David R. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, that project
produced a smartphone camera accessory and application that measures
cholesterol levels in a drop of blood in minutes. The application
uses the camera to read paper test strips that turn different
colours depending on the amount of cholesterol in the blood.
The Nutri-Phone and Hema-Phone will similarly use the smart
phone’s camera to accurately read test strips, while the
Stress-Phone will also use the phone’s microphone to measure stress
levels in the user’s voice.
“We believe that the science and technology enabled by the PHeNoM
program will ultimately lead to widespread access to the wealth of
health information obtainable from lab-on-chip technology,” said
David Erickson. “This could fundamentally alter the domestic
healthcare landscape by enabling earlier stage detection of disease,
reducing the cost of public healthcare delivery and allowing
individuals to take better control of their own wellbeing.”
After deploying the systems, the researchers will study how
people use them and adopt changes in health behaviour. Ultimately,
they hope to show that ready access to personal health information
can get people to change their behaviour.
“Almost everyone is deficient in vitamin D, but most people don’t
think about it,” said Erickson. “If you could use your phone to see
how deficient you are, you might be more likely to take a
supplement, or get more sun.
"Eventually we hope that the Nutri-Phone will measure a multitude
of vitamin and micronutrient deficiencies like A, B12 and iron, as
well as D and be deployed in the developing world where nutritional
deficiencies are most prevalent,” said Erickson.
The award comes from the Integrated NSF Support Promoting
Interdisciplinary Research and Education (INSPIRE) program to
support “bold projects” in all NSF-supported areas of research.