The future of medicine is testing our body fluids at home

The future of medicine is testing our body fluids at home
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Blood, sweat, tears: what do they say about you? Scientists and doctors have long turned to body fluids for clues about our health, but now they're finding that they can reveal more about the hidden workings of our bodies than once realised - and what's more, it's becoming ever-easier to test them ourselves.

Last week, for instance, BBC Future covered the story of a Star Trek-like tricorder that promises to diagnose fatal diseases like Ebola before people are even aware they're infected, and without them needing to travel long distances. Watch the video below to find out more:

It's not the only technology that allows for complex testing outside hospitals either: devices like the Cue are being marketed that will enable self-testing for fertility, flu and signs of inflammation. And the X-Prize Foundation is currently running a prize to discover the next generation of medical tricorders, capable of diagnosing various illnesses.

The next five to 10 years is expected to yield many more such tests, as well as the recruitment of new sources of information - including some our more embarrassing excretions.

As you might expect, many of these kits will involve the testing of blood. "In blood you can detect just about everything that you've eaten, or that's going on in your body," says Guy Carpenter, reader in oral biology at Kings College London.

But it's possible that technology will emerge to measure other excretions, says George Preti at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. He is currently investigating what your earwax can say about you. Unlike blood, earwax is a fatty substance, which means certain molecules may concentrate there and be easier to detect than in more watery fluids. "If you have a certain group of metabolites that like to dissolve in lipids (fats), we may be able to look at them in earwax," Preti says.

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