A small digital microscope that costs just a few dollars can plug into a cell phone and perform basic medical diagnostics that would ordinarily require expensive lab equipment. The microscope, which uses no lenses, saves on cost and weight by using algorithms to get more information from images. The device can generate blood counts and identify disease cells and bacteria from simple images sent through a USB cord to a cell phone that uses software to processes the data. The latest version of the microscope integrates an interference-based contrast method to provide better images in addition to diagnostic information.
The researchers developing the device hope it will bring better medical diagnostics to parts of the world where cell phones are prevalent but access to expensive clinical diagnostic equipment is not. Even basic cell phones now have significant processing power that can be used to analyze images of blood smears and other samples on the spot, enabling a patient to get on the right tuberculosis drug faster and enabling health-care providers to identify drug-resistant strains faster. What sets the new microscope apart from other efforts at integrating optical diagnostics with cell phones is the effort to make it as simple and cheap as possible. That means eliminating expensive lenses, and using software to get medical information from blurry images.
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