Sunday 10 April 2011
I never thought I would live to see something like this: A hand held scanner that can detect if a patient is healthy or not just by pointing it at the skin. It seems out of Star Trek, but it is real and it works today.
The scanner has been developed over a five-year period by a group lead by professor Jürgen Lademann of the Department of Dermatology, Venereology and Allergy of the Charité-University Medicine in Berlin (and sponsored by the German's Federal Ministry for Education and Research). Right now, it is being tested in Germany using a group of 19-year-old students.
How does it work?
The device—which will have a $280 price tag in Europe—is very simple: Point it at the skin, wait three minutes, and it will tell you how healthy you are in a scale from one (worst) to ten (optimal). The machine produces a light beam that reflects on the skin, analyzes the wavelengths reflected, and processes that information to figure out the anti-oxidants level in the skin. Before this Star Trek-style scanner, doctors needed to get tissue samples and process them in a laboratory to get the same kind of readings.
According to the researchers, the anti-oxidant level in your skin is a good indicator of your overall body health, since it is affected by stress, smoking, alcohol drinking, unhealthy food, lack of sleep and UV radiation. During trial, they were able to detect changes in diet and smoking habits.
The scanner is not designed to detect specific diseases, just your overall health level. It will work for any kind of patients—like cancer patients under treatment, to check out the negative impact of chemotherapy—but the German Government is hoping that it will help people who are not sick to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
Lademan thinks that, by allowing people to measure their health level in a comprehensive way, they will be able to modify their habits and immediately see the results. It sounds like a video game, but according to the ongoing tests, it's working among the students. I would use one, but then again, I'm not going to change my decadent lifestyle, so I prefer to live—and die—in ignorance but happy.