A team of US scientists have developed a prototype portable microscope that would allow a cellphone camera to help diagnose potentially fatal diseases in blood and sputum samples. The University of California team strapped a DIY microscope to a 3.2-megapixel Nokia N73, using cheap off-the-shelf parts that can nonetheless make out objects 1.2 micrometers across; a red blood cell is usually 6-8 micrometers in width.
With it, medical professionals can identify malaria parasites in blood smears, together with sickle-cell anemia, while sputum smears could be examined for signs of tuberculosis. While ambient light is usually clear enough for most samples, a white LED array and filter is also in place for using the system as a fluorescent microscope.
Future developments could include colored LEDs to broaden the range of cells the microscope will work with, and even using the camera’s abilities to label suspect images or geotag samples to track disease outbreak. More details of the system at the research article here.