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Meet Nima, the food tester that could change your life.

This triangle-shaped food allergen tester is half the size of an iPhone and can detect gluten in any meal.

Meet Nima, the food tester that could change your life.
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During her studies at MIT, Shireen Yates felt sick all the time. She couldn't figure out why.

She assumed her problem was stress until her doctor informed her it was gluten — plus dairy, soy, and eggs. Suddenly, Shireen had food allergies.


Meet Shireen Yates, co-founder and creator of 6SensorLabs. Hi, Shireen! Photo by 6SensorLabs, used with permission.

Around the same time as her diagnosis, Shireen met Scott Sundvor, a fellow MIT student with food sensitivities of his own. The rest is history: Fed up with the lack of practical ways to test their food for gluten, Shireen and Scott co-founded 6SensorLabs, a lab where they planned to invent a food allergy tool for the masses. Their colleague Jingqing Zhang, an MIT Ph.D. candidate whose husband has celiac disease, became the company's lead scientist.

Nothing brings people together for the holidays like a festive family dinner. But Shireen knew that for food allergy sufferers, there could be danger lurking in every entrée.

Gluten is found in anything containing wheat, rye, or barley. And for most people, it's a normal part of a healthy diet.

But about 1% of Americans suffer from celiac disease, an immune response to gluten that harms the intestines. And six times as many people have non-celiac gluten sensitivities.

Yum, gluten. Photo by iStock.

“It definitely affects the person who's afflicted, but certainly everyone's social circle too," says Shireen.

So as much as you want to trust that Grandma remembered to make gluten-free pecan pie for the holiday meal, how can you be sure before taking a bite?

You could always whip out your pocket-sized chemistry set and run some tests. No, really.

Shireen and her 6SensorLabs team just announced their new tool, called Nima. It's a triangle-shaped food allergen tester that's half the size of an iPhone and will be available in mid-2016.

Nima didn't find gluten in this meal — happy face! Photo by 6SensorLabs, used with permission.

Here's how it works: Before you help yourself to that pie, you slip a sample from your plate into one of the device's disposable capsules. Then, you put the capsule into the electronic sensor. Nima extracts the protein, binds it with an antibody, and reads the concentration through the sensor.

Two minutes later, boom — it lights up with your answer! You get a smiley face for gluten levels under the FDA gluten-free threshold, and a frowny face for higher concentrations.

Right now, Nima can only test for gluten, but the company is on track to release models for people with peanut and dairy allergies in 2017.

It could be a total game-changer.

Nima will also sync with an iPhone app, which will record the foods you test and where you test them, ultimately letting you view data from other users all over the map.

“Really, the whole inspiration is around helping people enjoy mealtime and being able to be social and celebrate eating without being super stressed-out," says Shireen.

This simple access to data could be powerful enough to make mealtime cheerier for people with food allergies — during the holiday season and throughout the year. Fingers crossed!

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Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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Enjoy.

1. This story of quick-thinking generosity on 9/11 is a reminder of the goodness of ordinary people.

Mercedes Martinez shared a story on Twitter about how her dad rented the biggest van he could find just before his flight was grounded on 9/11 because he knew people were going to be stranded. He ended up driving seven scared strangers from Omaha to Denver, took them straight to their front doors, and refused to accept any payment. She wants to find the people he helped. Read the full story here and follow her thread here for updates.


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