Lens-free imaging to help cell phones monitor HIV, malaria from afar

December 23rd, 2008 - 3:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Dec 23 (IANS) An innovative imaging technology, tiny enough to fit into a cell phone, could monitor HIV and malaria in remote locations or spread of epidemics.A brainchild of Aydogan Ozcan, electrical engineering professor at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), the imaging platform, known as LUCAS (Lensless Ultra-wide-field Cell monitoring Array platform based on Shadow imaging), has now been successfully installed in both a cell phone and a webcam.

Both devices acquire an image in the same way, using a short wavelength blue light to illuminate a blood, saliva or other fluid sample. LUCAS captures an image of the microparticles in the solution using a sensor array.

Because red blood cells and other microparticles have a shadow image, they can be identified and counted virtually instantaneously by LUCAS using a custom-developed “decision algorithm” that compares the captured shadow images to a library of training images.

Data collected by LUCAS can then be sent to a hospital for analysis and diagnosis using the cell phone, or transferred via USB to a computer for transmission to a hospital.

LUCAS is not a substitute for a microscope but rather a complement. While microscopes can produce detailed images, images produced by LUCAS are grainy and pixelated, said an UCLA release.

The LUCAS platform’s advantage lies in its ability to nearly instantaneously identify and count microparticles, something that is time consuming and difficult to do with a microscope in resource-limited settings.

Also, because LUCAS does not use a lens, the only constraint on size is the size of the chip it is built on.

“A conventional flow-cytometer identifies cells serially, one at a time, whereas tabletop versions of LUCAS can identify thousands of cells in a second, all in parallel, with the same accuracy.”

Now that Ozcan has successfully created prototypes with a cell phone and webcam, his next step is to build from scratch a handheld device incorporating the LUCAS imaging system.

The research was published online in Lab on a Chip.

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