Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Mobile Telemedicine: turn your camera equipped mobile phone into a microscope and heal the world

At the Institute of Tropical Medicine we focus on a lot of tropical diseases. In the quest to conquer those diseases there are a lot of hurdles to take and one is the lack of analyzing facilities in the field. Based on blood analysis it is easy to screen for a lot of the diseases (tuberculosis, malaria…). Now with the frequent and easy use of mobile phones throughout developing countries, a nifty little invention is bound to change this dramatically. While using the camera on a mobile phone, a holographic image can be made from the blood sample and be sent to any place where they can analyze the image of the blood sample. One of the dynamic mobile animal health researchers at ITM, Maxime Madder, gave me this tip.

So who is this person coming up with this new and affordable world relieving device? It is Aydogan Ozcan, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and member of the California NanoSystems Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has formed a company, Microskia (no active website yet), to commercialize the technology.

How does it work? “In one prototype, a slide holding a finger prick of blood can be inserted over the phone’s camera sensor. The sensor detects the slide’s contents and sends the information wirelessly to a hospital or regional health center. For instance, the phones can detect the asymmetric shape of diseased blood cells or other abnormal cells, or note an increase of white blood cells, a sign of infection, he said.” (taken from the article the New York Times published on 7 November 2009).

If you want the more techy bit behind this invention, look at MIT technology review on young inventors.

All the people in the field need is software (to be purchased), training and 10$ worth of hardware. It is still in the prototype phase, but with all the good it can do, it ought to be out there soon enough.

So, is anyone out there interested to partner for a funding proposal? Let me know and we can sit together and make the world a bit healthier, thanks to Aydogan and his team.

(photo credit Christopher Harting)