Engineer turns cell phone into low-cost microscope for quick field testing

Need to run a blood or tissue test pronto, but don't have ready access to a lab? Well, as the commercial goes, there's an app for that.

An engineering professor at UCLA's California NanoSystems Institute has created a piece of software and a small sensing device that effectively turns a cell phone into a microscope for lab testing in the field, and has set up a company to market the product. "We convert cell phones into devices that diagnose diseases," Dr. Aydogan Ozcan, assistant professor of electrical engineering at the Los Angeles school, tells the New York Times. The system is meant to identify conditions like anemia, tuberculosis and malaria in parts of the world that lack advanced healthcare facilities.

Ozcan, whose new company is called Microskia, built prototypes with $10 of off-the-shelf hardware that takes advantage of digital imaging technology--camera phones or external sensors--to eliminate the bulky optics in a traditional microscope. It's certainly not as precise as a laboratory-quality microscope, but it does the job when the heavy equipment isn't available.

To learn more, including details of how the technology works:
- click on this New York Times story