We talk often about the innovative ways we can use cell phones in science. They can be used for citizen scientists to record flora and fauna, or become sensors to detect toxins in the air. Now, scientists are turning them into mini microscopes in order to more quickly diagnose illnesses out in the field or for patients in developing nations.
Aydogan Ozcan and a team of researchers at U.C.L.A. have developed a device that can be attached to a mobile phone and image cells in a whole new way.
Rather than zooming in on the cells themselves, the new scope images the shadows of semi-transparent cells. Using LED lighting and an alogrithm that turns the shadows into an image of the cells, researchers are able to check out blood samples and better detect diseases present in the samples.
With the imaging device connected to a cell phone, the samples can be transmitted to a nearby hospital, assessed and diagnosed, and the results transmitted back to the doctors in the field. All within minutes!
The speedy technology is ideal for use in locations where expert doctors aren't available, but their resources are needed. Much like telemedicine, the new devices can be an inexpensive and practical way to get the input of the best minds at the best hospitals into rural or inaccessible areas where patients need help.
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