Keychain device warns of dangerous allergens in your food before you eat it

keychain allergens harvard allergy key fob
Anyone who suffers from a serious food allergy — or has a friend, partner, or family member who does — knows just how fraught a simple restaurant outing can be. Even if a particular allergen isn’t readily apparent in a meal, there’s always the possibility that it is stealthily hiding below the surface, due to cross-contamination. That’s where the product of some research by investigators at Harvard Medical School comes into play. They’ve developed a portable allergen-detection system, including a keychain analyzer, that could be not just a game changer, but a life saver, too.

“This is a portable device or a ‘dongle’ for on-site detection of food allergens,” Professor Lee Hakho, who leads Harvard University’s Biomedical Engineering Program, told Digital Trends. “The incidence of food allergy is increasing worldwide, particularly among children, and yet no handy test is available for the general public. Our technology was developed to address this challenge — empowering consumers to control and safeguard their own diet.”

Described as integrated exogenous antigen testing (or, cutely, iEAT), the $40 system comprises three parts. One is a tiny single-use slide that’s used for collecting potential allergens. This is then plugged into the keychain analyzer which identifies said allergens, before an associated smartphone app wirelessly displays the necessary readings.

“This system is basically a platform technology, and can detect many different type of allergens by changing antibodies that capture target allergens,” Hakho said. “In this proof-of-concept study, we have tested five representative allergens: gluten, peanut, hazelnut, egg white, and milk.”

In each case, the device was shown to deliver answers concerning whether or not a food sample contained an allergen in under ten minutes. As if to prove its own use case, during testing of sample menu items from restaurants, allergens were demonstrated to show up in the darndest places — like gluten in salads and egg protein in beer.

Next up, Hakho said the team wants to extend its detection targets to include other allergens, such as shellfish, as well as harmful chemicals like BPA and pesticides. They are also keen to commercialize the technology, but in order for this to happen they plan to build a fully automated system that can perform the entire “sample in and answer out” job in one single integrated device.

While this isn’t the first handheld device we’ve covered purporting to carry out a similar task, easy allergen diagnosis is one area where we’re especially happy to have market competition driving everyone to do their best work. An article describing the Harvard project was recently published in the journal ACS Nano.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Deals

These Amazon kitchen deals are perfect for Christmas gifts and healthy eating

Today is day 10 of Amazon’s “12 Days of Deals,” and it’s all about kitchen. From blenders to Instant Pots to KitchenAid mixers and more, practical yet highly coveted small appliances are available for up to 50 percent off.
Mobile

New Galaxy S10 leaks showcase display sizes, confirm headphone jack return

While we still may be months away from an announcement, there's no doubt about it: Samsung is working hard on its successor to the Galaxy S9. Here's everything we know about the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S10.
Movies & TV

'Stranger Things' season 3 teaser reveals the new episodes' titles

With a sophomore season as strong as its first, Stranger Things is now moving on to season 3. Here's everything we've learned so far about the Netflix series' upcoming third season.
Emerging Tech

New experiment casts doubt on claims to have identified dark matter

A South Korean experiment called COSINE-100 has attempted to replicate the claims of dark matter observed by the Italian DAMA/LIBRA experiment, but has failed to replicate the observations.
Emerging Tech

White dwarf star unexpectedly emitting bright ‘supersoft’ X-rays

NASA's Chandra Observatory has discovered a white dwarf star which is emitting supersoft X-rays, calling into question the conventional wisdom about how X-rays are produced by dying stars.
Emerging Tech

It’s no flying car, but the e-scooter had a huge impact on city streets in 2018

Within just a year, electric scooters have fundamentally changed how we navigate cities. From San Francisco to Paris, commuters have a new option that’s more fun than mass transit, easier than a bike, and definitely not a car.
Business

Amazon scouted airport locations for its cashier-free Amazon Go stores

Representatives of Amazon Go checkout-free retail stores connected with officials at Los Angeles and San Jose airports in June to discuss the possibility of cashier-free grab-and-go locations in busy terminals.
Emerging Tech

Full-fledged drone delivery service set to land in remote Canadian community

Some drone delivery operations seem rather crude in their execution, but Drone Delivery Canada is building a comprehensive platform that's aiming to take drone delivery to the next level.
Emerging Tech

Intel wants its fleet of drones to monitor America’s aging, unsafe bridges

Intel has signed a deal to use its Falcon 8+ drones to carry out bridge inspections. The hope is that these drones will be useful in spotting potential problems before they become serious.
Emerging Tech

Transplanted pig hearts show promise in baboon trials. Are humans next?

Researchers in Germany have successfully transplanted modified pig hearts into baboons. The results take us one step closer to ending organ transplant waiting lists for good. Here's why.
Emerging Tech

An A.I. cracks the internet’s squiggly letter bot test in 0.5 seconds

How do you prove that you’re a human when communicating on the internet? The answer used to be by solving a CAPTCHA puzzle. But maybe not for too much longer. Here is the reason why.
Emerging Tech

Makerbot is back with a new 3D printer that’s faster and more precise than ever

MakerBot's new Method 3D printer aims to bridge the gap between home 3D printers and more industrial 3D printing tech. Here are a few of the tantalizing things you can expect from it.
Giveaways

Print your heart’s desire: Enter our giveaway to win a free Monoprice 3D printer

We’re giving away a $400 Monoprice MP Voxel 3D Printer. It's easy to use, especially for beginners, with its simple menu system and touchscreen display. It comes fully assembled so you can spend more time printing instead of setting up.