Inexpensive rapid cortisol testing may soon be available on smartphones

June 25, 2014

Researchers have developed a device that uses any smartphone to measure the cortisol concentration in saliva. The device was presented yesterday at ICE/ENDO 2014, the joint meeting of the International Society of Endocrinology and the Endocrine Society.

“We have developed a method for measuring cortisol in saliva using a smartphone and a disposable test strip. This innovation enables anyone with a smartphone to measure their salivary cortisol level quickly, accurately, and affordably,” says lead study author Joel R. L. Ehrenkranz, MD. Doctors could use the smartphone test to help them diagnose adrenal insufficiency and hypercortisolism and monitor physiologic variations in cortisol concentration, and individuals can monitor their own cortisol levels. Current testing for salivary cortisol levels involves collecting a saliva sample and sending it to a clinical lab for analysis.

The software is operating-system-agnostic, meaning that the device can be used on all platforms, including iOS, Android, Windows, and BlackBerry, and it has a universal form factor that works with all smartphones.

The person being tested inserts a straw-like saliva collector under the tongue. The collector wicks the saliva by capillary action to an immunoassay strip housed in a cassette, and the cassette is inserted into the reader. The smartphone uses its camera and flash to take a picture of the saliva-coated strip and an algorithm converts the image's pixel density to a cortisol value. “The device is a reader that includes a case, a light pipe, and a lens,” says Ehrenkranz. “There is no battery power and it's unbreakable, passive, and reusable.”

Marketing this test as a cortisol assay would make it a class 2 medical device. Ehrenkranz and his research team are now collecting clinical data for the FDA submission, and hope to attain approval in 2015. Learn more about the just-completed ICE-ENDO meeting.

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