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Use Your Cell Phone To Diagnose Blood Diseases 63

A group of research engineers at Berkeley have developed a mobile phone microscope that can photograph microbes in your blood, and analyze them for disease. The group hopes the device will be useful to doctors in developing countries to diagnose blood diseases in the field. The device uses a phone attachment with an LED, and magnified images are fed into the cell phone camera. Software installed on the phone analyzes bacterial counts, or the images can be sent to labs for quick analysis. UC Berkeley bioengineer Dan Fletcher led the CellScope research team. He said, "The same regions of the world that lack access to adequate health facilities are, paradoxically, well-served by mobile phone networks. We can take advantage of these mobile networks to bring low-cost, easy-to-use lab equipment out to more remote settings . . . We had to disabuse ourselves of the notion that we needed to spend many thousands on a mercury arc lamp and high-sensitivity camera to get a meaningful image. We found that a high-powered LED — which retails for just a few dollars — coupled with a typical camera phone could produce a clinical quality image sufficient for our goal of detecting in a field setting some of the most common diseases in the developing world."


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Use Your Cell Phone To Diagnose Blood Diseases

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  • if it works as advertized. Hmmm...
  • by painehope ( 580569 ) on Friday July 24, 2009 @01:04PM (#28809049)

    You mean like East Texas and Louisiana?

  • iPhone (Score:4, Funny)

    by Stu1706 ( 1392693 ) on Friday July 24, 2009 @01:05PM (#28809057)
    Someone is already writing the "Do I have Malaria" app I bet.
    • They call it the iDoc

    • Actually, it's already done. I'm just waitting on Apple to approve it. It's already been two weeks since I submitted it!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Hurricane78 ( 562437 )

      Nah. Won't be compatible with the iPhone. Will be blocked from the store because it infringes the rights of Monsanto. Or it will be in Java, which every phone on the plane, except the iPhone, can do.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by T Murphy ( 1054674 )
      To provide your diagnosis*, please fill out this quick and easy survey:
      Do you have Malaria? (Y/N)

      *Accurate diagnosis 100% guaranteed when survey is answered completely and truthfully.
  • I repent my errant ways.

    The forming of a post is similar to writing a symphony or growing a tomato. All are composed of flashes of creativity followed by monotonous work to bring that creativity into the physical realm. The saving grace of writing Internet posts is the brevity of the act as well as the immediate feedback of the jeering or cheering crowd.

    Too muddy have I sullied myself; thought by some to be the Devil incarnate, to be moderated into oblivion so that naive eyes pass over my posts unknowingly

    • Little less intro next time.

      Your bit at the bottom is worth some up mod alone.

  • But if they can do something like this for field use, why can't they create cheap medical equipment (and thus lower costs) for US facilities?
    • It probably has something to do with accuracy.

      Here in the US, the 0.02% increase in accuracy of the really expensive equipment can make up for the cost differential in reduced litigation.

    • Re:One has to wonder (Score:4, Informative)

      by zwei2stein ( 782480 ) on Friday July 24, 2009 @01:25PM (#28809371) Homepage

      1) Cheap equipment is a bit worse. It might not impact performance at all, but chances are, some sue-happy person might win malpractice case thatnks to 'subpar equipment used'. Cheap in this case can be pretty expensive.

      2) Costs are directly transalted to customer. And people will pay a LOT when their health is concerned. So, if customers can afford to pay you for expensive stuff ... you might as well let em pay because your profit margins can be bigger. Simply, you can have lab test cost 10$ and add margin of say 5$, or you can have lab test costing 100$ and add margin of 50$.

      3) Expensive stuff means more profit for equipment makers (bigger price -> bigger margins). Enough to be able to advertize and add little, hmm, personal incentive to buy pricey stuff.

      4) And sometimes, you really DO need that expensive stuff because it can make difference between life and death.

      • Good points, though I meant more targeted at the low end of the healthcare spectrum. While I agree torts law is horribly messed up, I think there's enough people out there who can't afford the current medical price point that there'd be a market for the "lower tier" medical treatments and equipment if offered. OF course that raises whole new societal justice and ethical issues...
      • When seeing this setup, I immediately thought "What about combining this with a digital SLR camera?".
        Those usually have exchangeable lenses, and the instrument could lock to the camera body instead of the normal lens. That should give much better image quality due to the better sensor and still be affordable.
        For $400 - $500 you have a wide selection of DSLR cameras at places like Amazon. Assume another $500 for the attached microscope and you get a $1000 camera microscope, which is still cheap for medical e

      • The US has an unparalleled health system -- the rest of the world is heading in a different direction.

        For most of the world, it is not a high priority to preserve the ability of the private health care providers to make large profits. In the developed world, we do not have to watch eagle-eyed for any excuse to sue somebody, anybody, to lower health-related costs. Many of us have access to expensive equipment when we need it -- though admittedly we are not told that we need it quite as often as US customers

  • That thumbnail looks a lot like a weird rifle. It took me a second of trying to figure out what firearms could do to help diagnose blood diseases before I realized I was on the wrong track.

  • by muyla ( 1429487 ) on Friday July 24, 2009 @01:14PM (#28809195)
    I've invented a special coin that can tell you if you have a specific disease with only 50% false positives!
    • I have been working on this my self. How did you overcome the 50% false negative problem?

      • More than 50% of the time, it would be a correct negative. False negatives are still roughly as likely as true positives, though.

    • That's nothing. I've got a device which gets 0% false positives. Now, that device has a rather high rate of false negatives, so I augmented it with another device which gives you 0% false negatives, but some false positives. Together they give you the perfect diagnosis tool: No false positives (device 1) plus no false negatives (device 2).

      Here's how it works:
      The first device is just a piece of paper with the text "you are healthy" written on it. It's obvious that you won't get false positives from that.

  • This is probably off topic but it just reminded me something that happened to me as a naive child. I had bought a watch at Kmart a few days earlier, and it had inexplicably stopped working. So I went back into Kmart to get them to fix it. Then the lady there tried to claim that I had a type of blood that prevented the use of all battery powered devices near my arm.

    In retrospect she was probably just too lazy to try and fix it. Does something like this actually exist, and if so would it prevent this cell pho

    • Don't know if it's related to blood, but watches would stop if my father wore them. We had a drawer full of them, and they generally worked if I wore them.

      I think it was due to his job, he used to repair electrical equipment.

  • One of the reasons medical diagnostic gear is disproportionately expensive is lawsuits. We in the West are convinced that if we threaten to sue enough people we'll live forever.

    • Of course the only one you should sue to live forever is the death. He killed so many people, that he is certainly guilty of mass murder. With death removed, there's no limit to your life.

  • The same regions of the world that lack access to adequate health facilities are, paradoxically, well-served by mobile phone networks.

    Mobile phone infrastructure is incredibly cheap to provision. You can put up a single tower and cover literally hundreds of square miles. Access to adequate health facilities need equipment, which costs much more than a cell tower, staff (also more expensive than the tower), transit (roads, ambulances, vehicles).

    It's not a paradox that these areas get good cell coverage befor

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by tj2 ( 54604 )
      It's not a paradox that these areas get good cell coverage before other "modern" conveniences. It only makes sense. It's cheap and easy to provide cell service, and the low hanging fruit is always picked first.

      It's not only low-hanging fruit, but developing nations are, by definition, poor. If you string up 5 miles of copper phone line during the day, it's a sure bet that it will be pulled down that night. It's practically impossible to prevent, and copper is easily turned into cash. Ask anyone who's

  • They give you cancer but they can diagnose blood disease. Sounds like a fair trade-off. :-)

  • I've experimented with similar imaging, though I was just trying to take a picture of anything at all. I used a carboard box wrapped in aluminum tape, with a pinhole made from a piece of soda can. I used the scanner to measure the hole, and counted the pixels. I got close at least. I was using LED scanners, and wasn't able to find any cheap USB scanners which used a CCD and mirror -- the LED scanners have a scanning element the entire width of the scanner, and the construction prevents the light from being
  • "You have anemia."


  • It's the first tricorder?
  • Seems to me a mount-on camera is going to be prone to calibration issues with the cell phone camera lense.

    Wouldn't it be better to develop an all-in-one microscope camera and push image fiels to an SD or CF card that then goes into a camera?

    Bonus, They already exist [] (although this is USB insead of memory card.)

    IANA (insert whatever competency needed to have a valid opinion here)
  • The pinhole camera on an iPhone has an aperture smaller than the human pupil.

    This works easily, on regular microscopes, without any special attachment.
    A regular microscope is going to be much more versatile.

    I'll have to read the PLoS Online article to see what I'm missing.
  • But can it detect midichlorian counts?

In less than a century, computers will be making substantial progress on ... the overriding problem of war and peace. -- James Slagle