In order to get bloodwork or urinalysis done, samples obtained from patients are typically sent off to a lab. Thanks to a new device that's being developed at the University of South Florida, however, it may soon be possible to perform such analyses right in a doctor's office.

Presently, if a physician wants to test blood or urine samples for antibodies or antigens, a technique known as an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) is used. It requires expensive and bulky lab-based equipment, which has to be operated by trained technicians.

That's why the Mobile Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay (MELISA) was invented.

Currently being developed by a team led by Dr. Anna Pyayt, the 1-lb (0.5-kg) device utilizes an integrated water bath heater to incubate samples at a target temperature. An ordinary smartphone is then used to take photos of the samples, with a custom app subsequently analyzing their RGB (red, green, blue) color components. Based on that color analysis, it's possible to determine if given compounds are present, and in what concentrations.

MELISA is currently set up to measure progesterone levels in blood samples, although the scientists are now in the process of calibrating it to perform other tests on other fluids. Once they've done so, they plan on seeking FDA approval so that the device can enter wide use.

"It is designed to make biomedical testing simple and affordable," says Pyayt. "When low-cost testing can be integrated with routine clinic visits, this would greatly improve the quality of healthcare."

Previously, researchers at Columbia University developed a smartphone-based ELISA device for detecting HIV and syphilis markers in a finger prick of blood.