$10 cellphone microscope – Will it revolutionize global medicine?


A new microscope from Aydogan Ozcan of UCLA can revolutionize global medicine. It can change the way countries and governments look at healthcare. It could give tele-medicine a new meaning. It has all the ingredients of a successful device just like a cell phone. It is cheap, useful and most importantly it works with cellphones which are so ubiquitous. The cost is just $10.

The microscope can be mounted on a cellphone camera and can be used to analyze blood and saliva samples and waterborne parasites. Very effective for telemedicine.

Weighing 38 grams (<1.4 ounces), this lensfree imaging platform can be mechanically attached to the camera unit of a cellphone where the samples are loaded from the side, and are vertically illuminated by a simple light-emitting diode (LED). This incoherent LED light is then scattered from each micro-object to coherently interfere with the background light, creating the lensfree hologram of each object on the detector array of the cellphone. These holographic signatures captured by the cellphone permit reconstruction of microscopic images of the objects through rapid digital processing. We report the performance of this lensfree cellphone microscope by imaging various sized micro-particles, as well as red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and a waterborne parasite (Giardia lamblia). (source)

We have seen Sixth Sense from Pranav Mistry where any surface will become a touch surface and can be interacted with.  This cell phone microscope kind of beats that. It is inappropriate to compare two technologies but the cellphone microscope’s uses are limitless. The device has already won three prestigious awards ( Grand Challenges award from Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, CAREER award from the National Science Foundation and National Geographic emerging explorer award). Now it is all set to field test the device in Africa. (source)

India is seeing its own set of innovations from multi-national companies,  especially in healthcare. General Electric has launched MACi, a portable electrocardiogram (ECG) device which weighs less than a kilogram and is cost-effective. 

The microscope is nothing new, nor is an ECG device. But these new devices are keeping the bottom of the pyramid in mind. They are killing the costs of saving lives.