Scientists Create Fluorescent Microscope With Cellphone Camera
April 11, 2013

Scientists Create Fluorescent Microscope With Cellphone Camera

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

Scientists writing in The Journal of Visualized Experiments say they have found a way for a cellphone camera to capture images from a fluorescent microscope and flow cytometer.

The new cell phone camera will make it possible for areas with limited resources to run tests like checking for contaminated water and monitoring HIV-positive patients.

In a new video released by Jove, the researchers show the construction of the device and how it can be modified to fit any cellphone with a camera. The team believes the device could be helpful for doctors and scientists in countries with limited supplies and in fast-paced clinical environments.

“There is a huge need for these [miniaturized] devices. Resource poor countries demand compact, cost effective and light weight devices to replace bulky equipment common in our labs and hospitals,” said researcher Dr. Aydogan Ozcan. “These devices bring the diagnostic, testing, and microanalysis capabilities of larger machines to your cellphone.”

A flow cytometer counts and characterizes cells in a liquid sample, and has become highly used in scientific research. It was first developed by Wallace H. Coulter in 1953.

The new device brings together fluorescent microscopy and flow cytometry, which are two widely used tools in biomedical research. It can be constructed for less than $50, plus the cost of the cellphone, while full-sized fluorescent flow cytometers can cost more than $150,000 and require expansive lab space to operate.

“A cellphone has almost the computing power of a super computer of the early 1990s, and with over 6 billion cellphone subscribers in the world there is a massive cost reduction to owning a cellphone. That is exactly why I and my colleagues are trying to deploy these micro-devices to cellphones," said Dr. Ozcan.

Dr. Nandita Singh, senior science editor at JoVE, talked about how excited they are to be publishing this new device.

“We are very excited to publish this inexpensive cell phone based technology platform that enables the detection of white blood cells to monitor HIV positive patients in geographical regions with limited resources. This technology can also be extended to detect E. Coli contamination in water and milk supplies," Singh said.

Scientists reported earlier in March about how they turned an iPhone 4S into a microscope capable of diagnosing intestinal worm infections. The team used an $8 ball lens on the camera's lens, as well as a cheap torch and double-sided tape to create an improvised microscope.