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New Blood Scanning App That Can Detect Disease

There's An App For Everything, But Has It Gone Too Far?

It seems like there is a technological answer to every single problem these days and the phrase, 'I have an app for that' is getting more common, however the latest app news leads us to a begging question: Have we gone too far?

Yes apps and technology can do wonderous things now and can work out to be an improvement on our modern lives most of the time but there is also a line and, surely, a limit to what we- the general public- can do with our smartphones.

The new app is called Athelas and the brains behind the ambitious app say that it can detect diseases such as Malaria and even some cancers in seconds. 

The user takes a picture of their blood using a small lens attachment (the add-on for this is included in the app). The picture is then sent to the app's servers and results are then sent back to them. 

Mr Tandon, leader of the team behind the ambitious app, defends the app by saying "in rural areas, the tech really will shine, providing previously unavailable diagnostic skills through the power of artificial intelligence and computer vision." 

So it seems straight-forward and simple...almost too good to be true perhaps? Well experts certainly aren't over enamoured (or entirely convinced for that matter) with the reality of the app workings. Remember this is asking a smartphone to detect something as crucial and life-changing as cancer here.

Dr Amar Safdar, director of transplant medical disease at New York University's Langstone Medical Center, said "This app will create more confusion that alleviate anxiety." This is in light of the fact that the app will be asked to deliver potentially life changing results, results that people will take seriously. Can we really ask something this big of something so unreliable? What if someone gets a positive result when they are clear of disease? Or even worse the opposite and they are left panicking over some some app result! It all sounds like a recipe for potential mass panic. 

And we don't need another one of those, surely!

Apart from the moral implications, there are some obvious scientific ones too. For instance, as Dr Safdar also pointed out, some viruses require more in depth examinations such as electron microscopic examinations to be able to be detected. Take the Ebola outbreak as an example, Dr Safdar said that people who are in the earlier stages of the disease may not have enough of the virus in their blood to be diagnosed. Ebola is already causing the globe to prick their ears up for the threat of it spreading to this country as it has tragically already killed 800 people in West Africa since its outbreak.

Although experts do acknowledge the potential and the motive behind attempting to develop this type of app, they are more concerned for the potential for it to incorrectly diagnose users with something they may not have.

So while the idea and the novelty of this idea may sound appealing, it's probably best to leave some things to the experts.


Hi my name is Julie! Fresh out of university studying journalism, I love to have a good laugh and I believe in always keeping an open mind. In my spare time, if you don't catch me between two pages of a book, you'll most likely find me in front of the computer or the TV! I also like to make cakes if I have the time (and the ingredients!)... or as my friends like to call them, Bundy Buns. Make sure you follow me @JulieAtSMF.

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New Blood Scanning App That Can Detect Disease Reviewed by Anonymous on Saturday, August 09, 2014 Rating: 5
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