Medical Imaging: There's an App for That


Researchers have come up with an ingenious tool that can turn iPhones into medical-quality imaging and chemical detection devices.

Apple has estimated that there are approximately 350,000 apps available for its iPhone; as you can imagine, these apps range from juvenile and worthless to productive and practical. Falling under the latter categories, researchers at the University of California, Davis, have recently come up with an ingenious tool that can turn iPhones into medical-quality imaging and chemical detection devices.

Using materials that cost about as much as a typical app, the pumped-up smartphones are able to use their heightened senses to perform detailed microscopy and spectroscopy. The workings of the new tool will be explained by the researchers at the Frontiers in Optics Meeting being held October 16-20 in San Jose, CA.

The new tool could help doctors and nurses diagnose blood diseases in developing nations where many hospitals and rural clinics have limited or no access to laboratory equipment. The modified phones can also transmit real-time data to colleagues around the globe for further analysis and diagnosis.

“Field workers could put a blood sample on a slide, take a picture, and send it to specialists to analyze,” Sebastian Wachsmann-Hogiu, PhD, a physicist with the department of pathology and laboratory medicine and the Center for Biophotonics, Science and Technology, said in a statement. He is lead author of the research to be presented at the meeting.

Although the group is not the first to build a smartphone microscope, they felt they could make something “simpler and less expensive,” Wachsmann-Hogiu said.

Even though smartphone micrographs are not as sharp as those from laboratory microscopes, they are able to reveal important medical information, such as the reduced number and increased variation of cells in iron deficiency anemia, and the banana-shaped red blood cells characteristic of sickle cell anemia.

The team is working with the UC Davis Medical Center to validate the device and determine how to use it in the field. They may also add features such as larger lenses to diagnose skin diseases and software to count and classify blood cells automatically in order to provide instant feedback and perhaps recognize a wider range of diseases.


[Optical Society of America]

Researchers Transform iPhone into High-quality Medical Imaging Device

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