Thursday, July 01, 2010

10-dollar upgrade and your cell phone can be a mobile microscope

Could your iPhone be upgraded to the latest medical diagnostics equipment? In today's blog, Greg Dosmann, creative designer at STINSON Brand Innovation, takes a closer look at the possibilities.

Dr. Aydogan Ozcan and researchers at the California Nanosystems Institute at UCLA have developed a method for transforming a normal cell phone into a mobile microscope capable of diagnosing diseases. “Microscopes are invaluable tools to identify blood and other cells when screening for diseases like anemia, tuberculosis and malaria. But they are also bulky and expensive. Now an engineer, using software that he developed and about $10 worth of off-the-shelf hardware, has adapted cellphones to substitute for microscopes.”

"Dr. Ozcan’s system may someday lead to a rapid way to process blood and other samples," said Bahram Jalali, an applied physicist and professor of electrical engineering at U.C.L.A. In one prototype, a slide holding a finger prick of blood can be inserted over the phone’s camera sensor. The sensor detects the slide’s contents producing an interference pattern, which can then be processed mathematically, and the information is sent wirelessly to a hospital or regional health center.

This technology would certainly solve the cost issue many rural clinics in Africa face, as medical diagnostic equipment is too expensive. Now a health worker can capture an image of a blood sample, send it as a text message to a global database, and have the diagnosis in minutes for the cost of two text messages. M. Fatih Yanik, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said, “This makes it possible for ordinary people to gather medical information in the field just by using a cell phone adapted with cheap parts.” This innovation is exciting for field biologists working beyond their lab and doctors working away from a hospital.

It’s cheap.
It’s small.
It’s compact.
It’s versatile.
It’s mobile.

If you'd like to read more, go to Fast Company, "Where’s the Lab On Your Cell Phone?"
NY Times, "Far From a Lab? Turn a Cellphone Into a Microscope"

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