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Cell Phones: The New Medical Laboratory

Oct 12, 13 Cell Phones: The New Medical Laboratory

Imagine a cell phone that can do more than search cat memes and YouTube for the What the Fox Say music video. Imagine being able to use your cell phone to diagnose disease and run preliminary blood tests. Dr. Ayogdan Ozcan and his research team are currently creating this technology.

These UCLA researchers are currently developing an inexpensive device that would attach directly to a cheap camera phone. It is composed of a light-emitting diode (LED) and a charged-coupled device (CCD). A slide containing some type of biological sample is placed in between the LED and a light sensing chip. When illuminated, the light passes through the specimen in a signature manner. The CCD chip then collects this data and translates it into a usable form.

Following this, Lens-free-Ultra-wide field of view Cell monitoring Array platform based on Shadow imaging, or LUCAS technology, is utilized. LUCAS technology is able to magnify cells in an atypical manner.

A conventional light microscope directly magnifies a picture with a combination of lenses. However, LUCAS uses an electromagnetic wave-based process. This process images cell shadows. The shadows of a micro-object are quite different from our human shadows. Micro-object shadows are 3D in nature, almost rippled. They provide quantified information in regards to spatial characteristics.

These shadow pictures can be used to create a hologram of the imaged micro-object. This hologram can then be compared to a database of known holograms. For example, the imaged hologram could match the known hologram of the organism that causes malaria. If this were the case, the technology would send the doctor a text message with the presumed diagnosis.

This tool is able to diagnose malaria, TB, sickle-cell, cholera, and others. It is also able to perform complete blood cell counts, CD4 T lymphocyte counts for HIV/AIDS patients, and water contamination tests. It weighs less than 50 grams and can image 100,000 cells in a 20 cm2 field of view in one second. Even more impressive, it has a 90% accuracy rate.

Ozcan and his team developed this technology for countries that need a “cost efficient and effective way of performing basic medical tests.” The device costs less than $10 to make and merely requires an everyday cell phone with Internet access. It could drastically increase the breadth and depth of available medical care.

We sometimes complain about how much technology has infiltrated our lives. However, we should focus on how we can use developments for more than convenience and entertainment. Perhaps a cell phone could become as prominent as a stethoscope in a medical setting.

Image Credit: In Green / Shutterstock

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