Simple video device turns cellphone into diagnostic instrument

April 11, 2013 at 4:34 PM
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LOS ANGELES, April 11 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say a device can turn a cellphone camera into a diagnostic tool for checking for contaminated water or monitoring HIV-positive patients.

Engineers at the University of California, Los Angeles, described how a device fitted to a cellphone allows its camera to capture images from a fluorescent microscope and flow cytometer used to count and characterize cells in a liquid sample, making it possible for medical personnel in areas with limited resources to easily run diagnostic tests for the human immunodeficiency virus and other diseases.

"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," electrical engineering Professor Aydogan Ozcan said. "These devices bring the diagnostic, testing, and microanalysis capabilities of larger machines to your cellphone."

The UCLA device 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, Ozcan said.

"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," he said. "That is exactly why I and my colleagues are trying to deploy these micro-devices to cellphones."

The research has been published in The Journal of Visualized Experiments.

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