Date: Sep 01, 2014 Author: Jordan Graham Source: Boston Herald (
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A Cambridge company is attempting to create a real-world version of the famous tricorder on "Star Trek" -- an instant scanning and analysis device that would be able take crucial vitals, as well as run dozens of medical tests -- on one drop of blood, telling the user within minutes whether they have a cold, the flu, or something more serious like a heart abnormality.
"We have been working on developing a single device that is capable of diagnosing the majority of diseases from a single drop of blood," said Dr. Eugene Chan, CEO of DNA Medicine Institute, a Cambridge health technology company. "It's partly about global health, but it's also about general health for all of us. Everyone's got a condition where having a technology like this would be helpful."
The device, rHEALTH, is also being tested by NASA for a potentially key part of the space agency's future.
"They're funding us to develop this technology for long-duration space travel towards Mars," Chan said.
On Earth, rHEALTH -- one of 10 finalists for the global $10 million Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE -- could be used to help monitor and deal with disease outbreaks in remote areas, like the current Ebola outbreak.
"Any portable setting, any setting where there's a lack of health care" would fit for rHEALTH, Chan said. DMI has worked with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on the device. Chan said consumers in developed areas also would benefit from the device.
"You want to be able to pick up someone coming down with dizziness ... and diagnose it in the first place," he said. "This will impact the majority of the population."
"The technologies being created for the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE can have a profound impact on myriad medical areas, including health monitoring, prevention, diagnosis and disease management," said Rick Valencia, senior vice president and general manager of Qualcomm Life, in a statement. "It will certainly be exciting to see these devices materialize as we move closer to the competition's end.
"Medicine is still stuck in the Dark Ages," he said. "The physician still holds the information, so to unchain the (information) empowers the consumers to control their whole health."
As futuristic as this may seem, a device that takes minutes to diagnose an illness from home may not be too far away.
"I would say in the next two to three years, you're going to see some really neat technologies hitting the market," Chan said. "We're going to get a lot of cool technologies that are going to let us address our own health a lot better.