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Handhelds Medicine Cellphones Science

Smartphone Device Detects Cancer In an Hour 69

Posted by Soulskill
from the can't-wait-for-my-itricorder dept.
kkleiner writes "Scientists at the Center for Systems Biology at Massachusetts General Hospital have integrated a microNMR device that accurately detects cancer cells and integrates with a smartphone (abstract). Though just a prototype, this device enables a clinician to extract small amounts of cells from a mass inside of a patient, analyze the sample on the spot, acquire the results in an hour, and pass the results to other clinicians and into medical records rapidly. How much does the device cost to make? $200. Seriously, smartphones just got their own Samuel L. Jackson-esque wallet." Reader Stoobalou points out other cancer-related news that Norwegian researchers have found a group of genes that increase a person's risk to develop lung cancer.
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Smartphone Device Detects Cancer In an Hour

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  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Friday March 11, 2011 @03:38PM (#35456028)

    Seriously, smartphones just got their own Samuel L. Jackson-esque wallet

    Actually, in my book it's the programmer(s) who deserve that wallet. Seriously, they probably just saved a few people's lives by writing good software. How many of us can claim that?

    • There appears to be a fairly significant engineering component to this as well: the "MicroNMR" is a separate device, that uses some sort of protein-binding ferrous nanoparticles to allow NRM imaging without the usual Big Serious Apparatus.

      Presumably the signal processing guys who take the output from that device and beat it into something useful get the other half of the credit. The "smartphone" angle appears to just involve using the smartphone as a more or less dumb modem(unlike, say, some of the "low
      • Yes. This is a totally bizarre way to do things. If indeed the 'microMRI' device (which is the heart of the system) works as advertised you have a golden device without the dippy smartphone angle. You can take your magical results and modem them into another computer, to an EMR, to a consultant, to Twitter if you felt like it. The TFA also implies (but does not explicity state) that this device works on many, if not all tumors.

        That's Holy Grail level stuff.

        Color me jaded and cynical as usual, but
        • You mean like the one [singularityhub.com] at the top of the front page of TFA?
          • You mean like the one [singularityhub.com] at the top of the front page of TFA?

            No, I meant "show me some real data". My point being that a device that can identify most cancer cells from a fine needle aspirate is a very important discovery. The gushing of the TFA coupled with the bizarre hookup to a smartphone makes me (and the fungus dude) a bit leery of the whole concept.

      • The "smartphone" angle appears to just involve using the smartphone as a more or less dumb modem(unlike, say, some of the "low cost field microscope" designs that use cheap plastic or fluid optics to mate with a cellphone camera and then transmit images or do image processing onboard...)

        As I read it the smartphone is a very handy way to get:
        - a powerful computer (with signal processing chips for acceleration),
        - a user interface with a high-res color display, and
        - a network connection

        • and someone may want to call/email/message etc... the Dr or visa-versa.

          or they may want to look xyz up on the internet... they have to know more than the patient some days at least.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Probably more than you think. There's avionics software, robotics software that helps rescuers find earthquake survivors in collapsed buildings, software for 911 call centers, and of course almost all medical equipment these days, like everything else, is digital.

      It's possible you've written software that's helped save lives without even knowing it.

      • On the other hand, your code could have been secretly incorporated into the Earthquake Generator.
        • by peragrin (659227)

          rather the Earthquake Generator than Reality Distortion Field Generators. After all in order to expand apple's influence more of them have to be built. to make sure the coverage is good.

  • by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Friday March 11, 2011 @03:38PM (#35456032) Homepage Journal

    Anything that helps make detecting cancer cheaper, easier, and faster is good in my book.

    • by Kagura (843695)
      No, I can't stop yellin', cuz that's how I talk!
    • Agreed. Just got home from the funeral of one of the most well-rounded, energetic, and intelligent people I've been privileged to know. Cancer. I don't care if it's tethered to a Windows Phone as long as it helps.
  • Smartphone (Score:5, Informative)

    by saibot834 (1061528) on Friday March 11, 2011 @03:39PM (#35456048) Homepage

    It seems an article is at least 10 times more relevant in the news, if the word "Smartphone" is in the headline. In reality, this is just a normal device which has nothing to do with calling people or surfing on the web.
    If you read the abstract, you'll notice Smartphones aren't even mentioned.

    • In fairness, the prototype does tether to a smartphone, to use it as a cell modem for transmitting results to a remote site(or from a remote site) in real time.

      However, the smartphone appears to occupy the role of simple cellular modem, and is in no way integral to the design. A dedicated cell modem, or just about any other internet connection mechanism, could conceivably have been used instead...
    • The abstract seems to be for a paper on the microNMR technology. However, the article elaborates on the use of the device in combination with a smartphone:

      Unfortunately, modern biopsy analysis has an 84 percent accuracy rate and can take three to four days to produce results. Furthermore, tissue can degrade during transport to an external testing site and current immunohistochemistry methods can produce false positives. In their latest report, the researchers describe how they addressed these issues by connecting the microNMR to a smartphone for data analysis. This allows a clinician to extract cells from the patient and analyze them immediately rather than sending them away for testing.

    • by rolfwind (528248)

      It's relevant as it highlights how ubiquitous and cheap something so useful like this can become. Also, smart phone device also implies pocket size.

      Several concepts tied up in one word.

      • by cdrudge (68377)

        Also, smart phone device also implies pocket size.

        A device attached to a smart phone doesn't imply anything. For instance, many cars these days can "attach" to a smart phone (and even dumb phones) via bluetooth for some functionality.

    • While the smartphone element is very much over-hyped for those of us in the developed and connected parts of the world, it can be very significant for people who don't have the luxury of a desktop PC and high-resolution monitor in their doctor's office. Imagine a traveling physician in [insert remote area: Alaska, Appalachia, the Peruvian Andes, Subsaharan Africa, the Hindu-Kush, Siberia] that can use two very portable devices to provide a level of diagnosis otherwise unavailable in those regions without i
  • Seriously? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Klync (152475) on Friday March 11, 2011 @03:39PM (#35456050)

    Seriously: can someone explain wtf a "Samuel L. Jackson-esque wallet" is? I know who Mr. Jackson is, and I know what a a wallet is, but I'm clearly missing something here.

    • http://www.bmfwallets.com/ [bmfwallets.com] (mildly nsfw)

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Seriously: can someone explain wtf a "Samuel L. Jackson-esque wallet" is? I know who Mr. Jackson is, and I know what a a wallet is, but I'm clearly missing something here.

      It's from the movie Pulp Fiction, in which Samuel L. Jackson plays Jules.

      (Pumpkin and Honeybunny have collected a bag full of wallets)
      Jules: I want you to go in that bag, and find my wallet.
      Pumpkin: Which one is it?
      Jules: It's the one that says Bad Motherfucker
      (The wallet is produced; a closeup shows "Bad Motherfucker" is embossed on the outside.)

    • by guspasho (941623)

      You can tell which wallet is his because it says "Bad Ass Mother Fucker" on it. It's a Pulp Fiction reference, and a really awkwardly placed one in this summary.

  • A device that can cause cancer, is now able to detect it.
    • by imgod2u (812837)

      To smartphones! The cause of and solution to all of live's cancer.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      There is no research whatever showing any link between smartphones and cancer. To misquote your sig, link or it isn't true.

      Some keep imagining that EMF is cancer-causing. If that's so, how did my dad, who worked on the 90mv towers and 750kv poles for almost forty years, reach the age of 80 and still goes square dancing on Saturday nights, without any cancers except the skin cancers on his face caused by being out in the sun all that time?

      There's not only no causation, there isn't even correlation.

      I'll bet y

      • by 517714 (762276)

        There is no research whatever showing any link between smartphones and cancer.

        Someone didn't RTFA. There is no causal link, but apparently Scientists at the Center for Systems Biology at Massachusetts General Hospital have integrated a microNMR device that can be used with smartphones to detect cancer. I'm pretty sure that they did some research.

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          I rtfa, you misread my comment or didn't read the comment I was responding to. The GP said "A device that can cause cancer, is now able to detect it".

          The false notion that EMF causes cancer is way too widespread; you even see the allegations in the news sometimes. If he were talking about chest X-rays rather than smartphones he would have had a point, but as it is, his statement is right up there with the global warming deniers, the moon landing deniers, the flat earthers, and the "aliens have landed on ear

    • That's why my cigarette case is already engraved "Bad Ass Mother Fucker".
  • just give me a device which can emit large amounts of radiation, and I'll give you a device which can tell you on the dot, when you have a significantly increased risk of developing cancer!

    • by tibit (1762298)

      Yeah, because all radiation is the same. People hear the word "radiation" and the automatically assume it's bad. That's TRWTF. That's why someone had to come up with the acronym MRI. The underlying method's acronym -- NMR -- was too scary. As far as I'm concerned, if a patient is scared of an imaging procedure because its name contains the word "nuclear", then perhaps natural selection should take its course and eliminate said individual from the gene pool without meddling from marketeers.

  • There's an app for that!

  • by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Friday March 11, 2011 @03:59PM (#35456286)
    The "Tricorder Attachment"
  • Sounds a lot like a tricorder to me!
  • Reader Stoobalou points out other cancer-related news that Norwegian researchers have found a group of genes that increase a person's risk to develop lung cancer.

    Natural selection can only work on weeding out genes that affect reproduction. So genes that kill you so slowly that the genes have passed on to the next generation will live long. Genes that trade higher reproduction success for problems in post-reproduction life will be at an advantage. When that advantage runs amok, the organism will die almost immediately after reproducing. Like salmon. So in some sense almost the entire genome is making this trade off, and one could argue that at some life span, the e

    • Natural selection can only work on weeding out genes that affect reproduction.

      Not true.

      Parents and grandparents contribute to the upbringing, support, social connections, mate selection, and other things affecting reproductive success of their descendants. Post-reproduction people also have effects on the reproductive success, wealth, and survival rate of their relatives and members of their social groups, tribes, and countrymen - who are generally far more closely related than the general run of humanity

      • by 517714 (762276)
        survival rate == affect reproduction. You said it yourself, "Parents and grandparents contribute to the upbringing, support, social connections, mate selection, and other things affecting reproductive success ..." (emphasis added)
  • Hopefully we can tune that to STDs and make it close to instant.
  • Of course this $200 device will be $20,000 by the time it makes it through the medical industry and everyone gets their pound of flesh.

    • by spidercoz (947220)
      if it's not buried under a mountain of patent lawsuits first
  • The app is named, i(have)Cancer
  • Now we have a device that causes cancer, but detects the cancer it causes. Much better.
  • So, now I have to get a smartphone and increase my risk of getting cancer in order to detect if I have cancer?

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