UCLA engineer Aydogan Ozcan created the world’s smallest and lightest miniature microscope to use for telemedicine applications in resource limited settings. A paper was published online in the Journal “Lab on a Chip”. The microscope builds on imaging technology and is referred to as Lensless Ultra-wide field Cell monitoring Array platform based on Shadow imaging (LUCAS).
Instead of using a lens to magnify objects, LUCAS generates holographic images of microparticles or cells by employing a light-emitting diode to illuminate the objects and a digital sensor array to capture their images. This technology can be used to image blood samples or other fluids and has the potential to help monitor diseases such as malaria, HIV, and tuberculosis in third world countries. Weighing just 45 grams, the microscope is a self contained imaging device and the only external attachments needed are a USB connection to a smart-phone, PDA, or computer.
Tools like this lensless microscope could be digitally integrated as part of a telemedicine network that connects various mobile healthcare providers to a central lab or hospital. Transmission connections for these networks already exist in cellular networks even in the most remote corners of the globe.
The lensless microscope, in addition to being far more compact and lightweight than conventional microscopes also eliminates the need for trained technicians to analyze the images produced since images are analyzed by computer with results available instantly.
Field tests of the cell phone microscope will begin shortly in Africa using funds received from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation ($100,000 Grand Challenges Exploration Grant), the National Geographic Emerging Explorer ($10,000), and the National Science Foundation (a CAREER award for $400,000).