London: Researchers have created 'smart' holograms that can detect diseases and monitor health conditions by changing colour in the presence of disease indicators in a person's breath or bodily fluids.
The holograms are being developed into portable medical tests and devices, which could be used to monitor conditions such as diabetes, cardiac function, infections, electrolyte or hormone imbalance easily and inexpensively, researchers said.
The 'smart' holograms can be used to test blood, breath, urine, saliva or tear fluid for a wide range of compounds, such as glucose, alcohol, hormones, drugs, or bacteria.
When one of these compounds is present, the hologram changes colour. A person would just have to check the hologram's colour against a chart or use a camera phone to read the results, 'Gizmag' reported.
As these holographic sensors do not require batteries, electricity or lasers to function, it's possible to create inexpensive portable tests for healthcare workers to use or people to self-administer, that could help them potentially diagnose diseases in their earliest stages.
The project by researchers from the University of Cambridge uses a highly absorbent material known as a hydrogel, similar to contact lenses, impregnated with tiny particles of silver.
Using a single laser pulse, the silver nanoparticles are formed into three-dimensional holograms of predetermined shapes in a fraction of a second.
When in the presence of certain compounds, the hydrogels either shrink or swell, causing the colour of the hologram to change to any other colour in the entire visible spectrum, the first time that this has been achieved in any hydrogel-based sensor.
A major advantage of the technology is that the holograms can be constructed in a fraction of a second, making the technology highly suitable for mass production, researchers said.
It costs less than 10 cents to make these small, lightweight and easy-to-carry sensors, they said.
Clinical trials of the holographic sensors to monitor glucose levels and urinary tract infections in diabetic patients are currently underway at Addenbrooke's Hospital, part of Cambridge University Hospitals.
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