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Hardware Hacking Cellphones Handhelds

Turning a Smart Phone Into a Microscope 43

Posted by timothy
from the now-it's-genius dept.
MTorrice writes "By attaching a lightweight, inexpensive device to the back of a smart phone, scientists can convert the phone into a sensitive fluorescence microscope. The attachment [paper abstract] allows the phone's camera to take pictures of single nanoparticles and viruses, possibly providing a portable diagnostic tool for health care workers in developing countries. For example, doctors in remote regions could use the technique to measure HIV viral loads in patients' blood samples, allowing the doctors to easily monitor disease progression and determine the best course of treatment."
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Turning a Smart Phone Into a Microscope

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  • by Skiron (735617) on Saturday September 21, 2013 @10:20AM (#44911473) Homepage
    [allowing the doctors to easily monitor disease progression and determine the best course of treatment.]

    They could use the phone to call for expert help.
    • Re:Of course... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday September 21, 2013 @10:24AM (#44911483) Homepage Journal

      Or the phone could diagnose the disease, or forward imagery on to some system which will do the same. That's why I got involved with infragram [infragram.org], in the hope that at some point I'll end up with a mobile device which can do the processing onboard. I had to say it, but this might actually be a decent excuse to use the Pi, with the camera module.

    • by fatphil (181876)
      Or they could instagram a hilarious photo of a guy with blood running out of his eyes, and tweet "#YOLO - only briefly in this case" for the lulz.
    • the stage (Score:4, Insightful)

      by goombah99 (560566) on Saturday September 21, 2013 @11:06AM (#44911661)

      one of the smallest things in a microscope is the lens. most of the microscope is precision, vibration damped, gearing to manipulate the focal distance precisely. If you are going for high resolution its not yet clear to me how you avoid the expensive non-portable part of the microscope.

      • by goombah99 (560566)

        one of the smallest things in a microscope is the lens. most of the microscope is precision, vibration damped, gearing to manipulate the focal distance precisely. If you are going for high resolution its not yet clear to me how you avoid the expensive non-portable part of the microscope.

        Answering my own question: Been staring at their schematic diagram. What I think they are doing is relying on the thinness of thr sample to avoid having a long range over which to focus. then they are not worrying too much about the reproducible adjustment of the X and Y directions. this might let them get away with a precision casted fixed distance that could be trimmed to perfection over a small range then fixed.

      • Re:the stage (Score:4, Informative)

        by YttriumOxide (837412) <yttriumox@NOSpAM.gmail.com> on Saturday September 21, 2013 @11:15AM (#44911699) Homepage Journal

        one of the smallest things in a microscope is the lens. most of the microscope is precision, vibration damped, gearing to manipulate the focal distance precisely. If you are going for high resolution its not yet clear to me how you avoid the expensive non-portable part of the microscope.

        Don't forget, this isn't talking about a standard "microscope" but rather a "fluorescence microscope", which is actually a fairly different thing.

        The linked article (and linked paper abstract) has images that give you an idea of what they're doing much better than TFA does.

        • Don't forget, this isn't talking about a standard "microscope" but rather a "fluorescence microscope", which is actually a fairly different thing.

          No it isn't.

          They are basically exactly the same and the widefield fluorescence microscopes can operate in both normal and fluorescence mode. Fluorescence microscopes have an additional filter cube in the beamline so you can focus the incident light using the same optics as the image and to filter out the reflected light so that only the fluorescent light reaches t

          • Don't forget, this isn't talking about a standard "microscope" but rather a "fluorescence microscope", which is actually a fairly different thing.

            No it isn't.

            I disagree, it is a fairly different thing when you're talking about miniaturising it. I could stick a lens onto a phone cam and call it a microscope but it's not so trivial to turn a phone into a compact fluorescence microscope. You can't just whack in a Olympus filter cube, you need to think it through a little more. These guys have done a pretty good job of miniaturising the fluorescence microscope. As you say, the resolution is shitty (probably because objective NA is small). I can't see a use for the

  • This is neat... but this device is probably not going to be useful in the field anytime soon. The tests described were performed on pre-purified, pre-stained, pre-smeared virus. These steps still require a lab to perform. And if you are already in a lab, might as well use a nice microscope. This is the real problem in point-of-care diagnostics, and the reason we don't all have our own personal medical tricorders yet. Big advances are still needed.
  • by Joining Yet Again (2992179) on Saturday September 21, 2013 @10:46AM (#44911577)

    ...may have benefit where microscopes are useful.

    Developments at 11!

    • That's not a fluorescent microscope though.

      Fluorescent imaging involves shining excitation light of a specific wavelength at the sample, and filtering out any light but the emission spectrum light. THEN there's the lens. Build your own fluorescent microscope and I'd be impressed. Build your own fluorescent microscope that can fit in your pocket, and that's actually an achievement.

      At least, I think it is, compared the usual slashdot stories. "OMG, the next android is going to be named KIT KAT!!!!"
    • full ack ... just because you use a smartphone instead of a built-in image sensor does not make stuff groundbreaking ... it just removes parts which everyone has already in his pocket anyhow.

      Actually: this system is already in use at least for a bunch of telescopes where you can easily screw on your camera for taking images, and I imagine it is no different with professional microscopes ... so the only thing that actually changes is the adaptor.

  • by pla (258480) on Saturday September 21, 2013 @11:32AM (#44911777) Journal
    By attaching a lightweight, inexpensive device to the back of a smart phone

    By "device", you mean... A fluorescence microscope? Camera works as camera??? Whoah, major breakthrough, dude!

    Hey! What do you suppose would happen if, instead of using a $300 phone as a camera (with all its controls inconveniently under the device), we used a $20 USB webcam?

    Pinky, bring me the yak!
    • It is not so stupid as it sounds. Yes, they basically attached a fluorescent microscope. However, there was some engineering involved and there area some benefits over a web cam.
      - Built in capabilities.
      - connectivity allowing for remote diagnoses, software upgrades etc
      - phone providing very large range of travel and maintaining data access
      - storage of image can be linked with other patient data
      - OS for automatic analysis

      • by dfghjk (711126)

        None of these things differentiate a smartphone from a notebook PC with a cabled webcam and a notebook would be superior in many ways.

        "Very large range of travel" is not a feature of a smartphone, is it simply capable of enabling that. Other devices are too, namely devices a webcam connects to.

        Not sure how you consider these points you made to be "engineering" either.

    • Have you ever seen a normal fluorescence microscope? They're not portable, lightweight, and they're not cheap.

      With fluorescent microscopes, researchers can detect and study important biomolecules or single cells that they’ve labeled with fluorescent dyes. But the instruments are bulky and expensive, says Aydogan Ozcan at the University of California, Los Angeles. As a result, people with limited resources, such as those in developing countries, often don’t have access to these diagnostic tools.

      Why is it with every story on slashdot that is ACTUALLY ABOUT SCIENCE, there's some guy here talking uninformed trash on it?

      • by pla (258480)
        Have you ever seen a normal fluorescence microscope? They're not portable, lightweight, and they're not cheap.

        Yes, actually - I've even used one.


        Why is it with every story on slashdot that is ACTUALLY ABOUT SCIENCE, there's some guy here talking uninformed trash on it?

        I think you might have mistaken my criticism as pointed in the wrong direction. The "story", as presented, does contain complete trash. The real story here involves these folks making a lightweight, portable fluorescence microscope
        • Ah, well then my rage was misplaced. I'm sorry for that, and specifically for calling you uninformed.
          • by pla (258480)
            No, you had the right idea in general, just chose a suboptimal target for it. Overall, I agree with your sentiment. People (even Slashdotters) would, sadly, rather discuss 101 ways to hack their XBox than hear about any "real" scientific breakthroughs short of a Higgs Boson level discovery. :)

            Cheers!
  • by Frankie70 (803801) on Saturday September 21, 2013 @01:01PM (#44912277)

    I attached a football to my smartphone and turned my smartphone into a football.

  • Not in the US of A (Score:5, Informative)

    by deviated_prevert (1146403) on Saturday September 21, 2013 @04:28PM (#44913277) Journal
    For determining the viral load of a patent in the US the software necessary to image detect most viruses is patent encumbered. The gold standard test to determine the viral load of HCV is under a ridiculous patent and as such is completely out of reach for easy wide scale use. Using the physical image shape of the HCV virus and others is patented and you are not allowed to develop software to assay it, this is the only reason why in Canada the test is only done once on HepC patients and doctors are told not to order the test because it is out of this world expensive because of the site license costs of software to do the test.

    These diagnostic patents are all held and defended by the American drug company cartels who hold the world ransom. Same thing applies to the detection of the breast cancer gene, that is why you only see the wealthy being tested for this indicator gene, then deciding to have their breasts removed if they inherited the gene. Nothing is holding back the rapid advancement of diagnostics more than the drug company cartels and they need to be broken up permanently the same way standard oil was dealt with!

    All well and good developing cheap portable diagnostic devices but if ideas like, doing assay by the software counting a specific shape can be individually patented per shape and are then held ransom by crooked corporations with cooked up patents these devices will be far too expensive to do any good at all.

    • by kermidge (2221646)

      You've just brought up one of those inconvenient realities that are generally swept under the rug and don't make it into any kind of public discussion. I wasn't aware of this until the breast cancer gene thing a few years back and one link lead to another kind of thing. Holding health hostage may make for profit but not friends. Eventually enough enemies can overturn the idiocy. Well, we can hope. A bunch of complacent coupon clippers condemning people to death to help support their opulent lifestyle r

    • These diagnostic patents are all held and defended by the American drug company cartels who hold the world ransom. Same thing applies to the detection of the breast cancer gene, that is why you only see the wealthy being tested for this indicator gene, then deciding to have their breasts removed if they inherited the gene. Nothing is holding back the rapid advancement of diagnostics more than the drug company cartels and they need to be broken up permanently the same way standard oil was dealt with!

      Myriad no longer has a monopoly on the BRAC breast cancer markers: http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/supreme-court-strikes-down-breast-cancer-gene-patent-175640515.html [yahoo.com] They may keep fighting this, but this patent is crumbling. Where is your link for the HCV test? Physical image shape sounds like something you'd need EM to do. What's stopping people from tagging virus particle with fluorescent antibodies and then counting the green dots with a light microscope? No software patent needed to count dots.

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