Dr. Aydogan Ozcan is revolutionizing disease detection and diagnosis. The electrical engineer and bioengineer from the University of California, Los Angeles has developed a microscope that utilizes smartphones.
Smartphones seem a simple alternative to expensive lab equipment. “We have close to six billion cell phone subscribers today,” Ozcan said on the timeliness of his development. Of these users, 70 percent come from developing countries that have a greater need for this microscope.
The system weighs about 200 grams and is able to identify particles as small as 100 nanometers. According to Charles Choi of Scientific American, the microscope can also detect relatively large viruses like HIV and harmful bacteria present in food and water.
The device is easy to use, which means more people can use the smartphone microscope for their benefit. The portability and cost-effectiveness of the device may prove invaluable in remote areas without easy access to medical facilities or trained personnel.
How exactly does the microscope function?
Instead of lenses, this device creates images electronically, according to a New York Times article by Anne Eisenberg. Choi explains that molecules known as fluorophores “[that] fluoresce under certain wavelengths of light” identify and locate the target particles to which they attach.
A blue laser shined onto the particles excites them, creating a hologram from which information can be extracted. The hologram may prove quicker than microscopes in disease detection and diagnosis, according to Eisenberg.
This speed and effectiveness could play a crucial role in future research by, for instance, facilitating the screening of entire regions. This could help gather information on how diseases spread and subsequently inform future responses, Ozcan said.
Ozcan continues to develop his research for the betterment of global healthcare. Holomic LLC, a start-up he founded, “aims to commercialize the computational microscopy.” Commercialization may give his and similar innovations a greater reach and applicability.
– Jocelyn Lim