Researchers cite the new role for cell phones in diagnostic telemedicine

Mobile phones like this one may be used for telemedicinal purposes - Image 1Granted, mobile phones are usually utilized for communication purposes. Recently, however, these gadgets have taken on an entirely new role: that of saving lives when medical practitioners aren't physically around. The key word here is telemedicine. Find out all about it in the full article after the jump.

Mobile phones may prove to be a big help in telemedicine - Image 1It's the job of doctors and other medical practitioners to save people's lives, but what happens when they aren't physically present? In that case, you put a telemedicine system to work. At least, that's the idea of Cambridge University professor Dr. George R. Whitesides.

Whitesides collaborated with his colleagues in the United States and Brazil to design a simple, inexpensive telemedicine system using mobile phones. His prototype system makes use of cell phone cameras and paper-based diagnostic tests that change color when exposed to certain disease markers.

To demonstrate the system, Whitesides and co. used paper-test strips to collect and characterize artificial urine samples. They then took pictures of the color-changing test-strips with a mobile phone camera and remotely transmitted them to an off-site expert. The said expert then measured glucose and protein levels for diagnosis.

Whitesides and his fellow researchers have said that their system may also be used for detecting disease in plants and livestock, as well as for testing food and water quality. What remains to be done is to further develop and mass-produce tests like these.