Smartphone doubles as microscope to test blood, water parasites

UCLA engineer Aydogan Ozcan is devising a way to transform an ordinary smartphone into a device that can analyze blood cells for malaria, test water for parasites, or even monitor the health of HIV patients by counting T-cells in their blood.

On February 24, health and science website LiveScience posted a video interview of the 32-year-old innovator, who won the 2010 Popular Mechanics Breakthrough award.

His aim is to convert a cell phone into a lens-less microscope or three-dimensional scanner that can be used cheaply and easily anywhere in the world, with the aim of both saving lives and reducing the cost of global health care.

One application, which will soon be field-tested in Brazil, identifies red blood cells misshaped by the malaria parasite, which Popular Mechanics reports is the same thing a lab technician searches for when using a standard microscope. Yet with the cell phone app, the analysis is instantaneous and doesn't require expensive equipment.

In other telemedicine innovations, US-based mobile health start-up Mobisante has developed a smartphone-based ultrasound system, MobiUS, that was recently granted clearance by the US Food and Drug Administration. Similar to Ozcan's device, the mobile ultrasound imaging system is a lower-cost alternative to expensive ultrasound systems, which can ring up tens of thousands of euros - the device costs between $7,000 and $8,000 (€5,160-€5,900) but the company hopes to cut the cost in half. Because it is compact and portable, the smartphone ultrasound probe can be used in remote areas where ultrasound equipment is not available.

Watch the LiveScience interview here: http://www.livescience.com/12969-cell-phone-apps-test-disease.html

Watch a talk with Ozcan introducing his technology: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7FQUHhdGUII

 

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