26 July 2009

Cell phones turned into fluorescent microscopes can help to diagnose diseases

The prototype CellScope moves a major step forward in taking clinical microscopy out of specialized laboratories and into field settings for disease screening and diagnoses.

"The same regions of the world that lack access to adequate health facilities are, paradoxically, well-served by mobile phone networks," said Dan Fletcher, UC Berkeley associate professor of bioengineering and head of the research team developing the CellScope. "We can take advantage of these mobile networks to bring low-cost, easy-to-use lab equipment out to more remote settings

"The images can either be analyzed on site or wirelessly transmitted to clinical centers for remote diagnosis," according to David Breslauer, co-lead author of the study The system could be used to help provide early warning of outbreaks by shortening the time needed to screen, diagnose and treat infectious diseases." The software programs can be easily installed onto a typical cell phone, turning the mobile phone into a self-contained field lab and a "good platform for epidemiological monitoring."

The CellScope developers have even been approached by experts in agriculture interested in using it to help diagnose diseases in crops. Instead of sending in a leaf sample to a lab for diagnosis, farmers could upload an image of the diseased leaf for analysis.

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