UC Berkeley researchers have built a cell phone microscope capable of imaging malaria parasites, tuberculosis bacteria, and other bugs. The CellScope consists of compact microscope lenses attached to the phone's camera. Most impressive is the device's ability to do fluorescent microscopy.
The researchers showed that the TB bacteria could be automatically counted using image analysis software.
"The images can either be analyzed on site or wirelessly transmitted to clinical centers for remote diagnosis," said David Breslauer, co-lead author of the study and a graduate student in the UC San Francisco/UC Berkeley Bioengineering Graduate Group. "The system could be used to help provide early warning of outbreaks by shortening the time needed to screen, diagnose and treat infectious diseases."
The engineers had previously shown that a portable microscope mounted on a mobile phone could be used for bright field microscopy, which uses simple white light – such as from a bulb or sunlight – to illuminate samples. The latest development adds to the repertoire fluorescent microscopy, in which a special dye emits a specific fluorescent wavelength to tag a target – such as a parasite, bacteria or cell – in the sample.
"Fluorescence microscopy requires more equipment – such as filters and special lighting – than a standard light microscope, which makes them more expensive," said Fletcher. "In this paper we've shown that the whole fluorescence system can be constructed on a cell phone using the existing camera and relatively inexpensive components."