New 3D printed smartphone-based device that reads medical diagnostic tests

Undergraduate researcher Brandon Berg

Researchers from the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA has developed a 3D printed new mobile phone-based device that can read ELISA plates accurately as the large machines in the clinical laboratories.

Enzyme-linked immunosorbant assay (ELISA), is a diagnostic tool that identifies antigens such as viruses and bacteria in blood samples; detects a number of diseases, including HIV, West Nile virus and hepatitis B; and used to identify potential allergens in food.

Undergraduate researcher Brandon Berg
Undergraduate researcher Brandon Berg

Aydogan Ozcan, associate director of the California NanoSystems Institute, led the research, supported by the National Science Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, along with Dino Di Carlo, professor of bioengineering, and Omai Garner, associate director of clinical microbiology for the UCLA Health System. UCLA undergraduate Brandon Berg was the study’s first author.

The new device, which is created with a 3D printer and attaches to a smartphone, illuminates the ELISA plate with an array of light-emitting diodes. The light projects through each well and is collected by 96 individual plastic optical fibers in the attachment. The smartphone transmits the resulting images to UCLA servers through a custom-designed app. The images are then analyzed by a machine-learning algorithm that are written by the researchers, and the diagnostic results are sent back to the phone within a minute for the entire 96-well plate. The app also creates a visualization of the results for the user.

This mobile platform was compared with the standard FDA-approved well-plate readers in a UCLA clinical microbiology laboratory. The ELISA tests included those for mumps, measles, and herpes simplex viruses 1 and 2. For 571 patient samples used in the comparison, the mobile platform achieved 99.6% accuracy in diagnosing mumps, 98.6% for measles, and 99.4% for herpes simplex 1 and 2.