Commercially, the lateral flow device was launched in 1984 as a simple-based pregnancy test for home use. Now, it is becoming popular because of the recent unstoppable trend towards portable and wearable technology. This new movement drives the lateral flow strip business towards an industrial interface that will enable it to connect with big data and expert systems where real-time data transmission is essential to make good and better decisions.
The visually read lateral-flow device’s evolution to more advanced instrumented and electronic versions are becoming obvious to examine labeling strategies for visual detection and recognition elements the relative merits of optical and electrochemical transducers.
The need of lateral flow reader
One can wonder, with a colorimetric test, why it is necessary to have a lateral flow reader if we can interpretate the results with the naked eye? Most of the conventional lateral flow tests have been designed for qualitative assays that change color with the presence of a protein, this color can read by the human eye without the help of an instrument.
Although the color readout approach is simple, direct, and user-friendly, it may misread due to differences in perception of color caused by age, visual ability, and other psychological factors or, the presence of faint-color test lines which are difficult to differentiate from the nitrocellulose color background.
Therefore, the development of an integrated optical readers that could transform the color signal in these tests to a more accurate quantitative result is essential for point-of-care (POC) diagnostics to support decision making.
Characteristics of a lateral flow reader
With the addition of a reader to the lateral flow device we can get more credibility to a simple visual test maintaining speed, cost effectiveness and consumer friendliness. Among all the characteristics and advantages of a lateral flow reader these are the most important ones:
- Objectivity: can detect and even quantify the target molecule precluding subjectivity of the interpretation of a human eye. Furthermore, with a lateral flow reader it is possible to reduce variability of the samples while increasing the reproducibility.
- Traceability: with a lateral flow reader we get to store the images and results of the analysis and complete sample traceability without entering manually the results. Avoiding mistyping errors and the need of an expert.
- Connection: it is possible to send the results in real-time and integrate them with the laboratory information system (LIS). It also connects portable devices like mobile phones or tablets, clouds, local networks, or even the Internet.
- Precision: it provides an instant readable test without the need of trained specialists.
Stand-alone or smartphone-based lateral flow readers?
Mobile phone healthcare is an emerging area for point of-care diagnostics. The rapid growth and demand for this advanced technology have transformed the smartphone into a ubiquitous integrated platform that can be used for imaging, display, data processing and storage, and communication.
However, what should we consider choosing a lateral flow reader? The main strengths of a lateral flow reader are sensitivity, cost, simplicity and connectivity. Although three of these features are present in stand-alone and smartphone-based lateral flow readers, the sensitivity tends to be undervalued in the latter case (publication) and be boosted in stand-alone lateral flow readers, improving up to 3-fold the sensitivity of a lateral flow test.
Reproducibility and repeatability of the results are a must in each instrument. Are they guarantee when different smartphones are used to interpret the same test? If we take simultaneous photos with the same mobile, are they taken at the same distance, inclination, and light?
IUL’s lateral flow reader: iPeak
iPeak® is a colorimetric lateral flow reader that enhances the colors of any test. iPeak® is equipped with the Flash Eye technology that makes each iPeak® reproducible and repetitive.
With the iPeak® we can export and print the results and send them in real-time. Furthermore, we can integrate them into any laboratory information system (LIS) or send them to the server with one click. Its leverage point is to achieve the highest sensitivity to be able to detect and even quantify the lines of a lateral flow assay.
Flash Eye technology combines the IUL’s know-how for image acquisition and processing to enhance colors of any colorimetric lateral flow device with an outstanding dynamic range for visual, qualitative, and quantitative assays. iPeak® is precise and optimal, an unrivalled tool to read a rapid test at the right moment.