ePetri dish – Smartphone based microscopy imaging platform

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A microscope is an instrument used to see objects that are too small for the naked eye. The science of investigating small objects using such an instrument is called microscopy. Microscopic means invisible to the eye unless aided by a microscope. Researchers from university of California, utilized iPhone as microscope and spectrometer. California Institute of Technology researchers transformed iPhone or smartphone into imaging platform to study cultures or described as ePetri dish.

Microscopy has been used to reveal details about anatomy and physiology. An example of this is in elucidating the various kinds of blood cells; white blood cells or leukocytes especially. Blood cell counts, in which a lab worker will smear a film of blood on a slide, stain it and examine the specimen under the microscope, have become a prime need in modern medicine. The relative numbers of the different types of leukocytes are of diagnostic value.

The structure of the cell can be studied through the lenses of a microscope. This has led to progress in modern medicine and biology in a wide range of sub-disciplines. Microbiology has become a discipline by itself.

Smartphone-Based  lens-free microscopy
Engineers from the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) have devised a ePetri dish: a small, lens-free microscopy imaging platform.  The prototype was built using a smartphone, a commercially available cell-phone image sensor and Lego building blocks, instead of using a large, heavy instrument, for providing high-quality images of cells.

The culture is placed...



on an image sensor chip and the phone’s LED screen functions as a scanning light source. The ePetri device is then placed in an incubator, with the image sensor chip connected to a laptop outside the incubator through a cable. The image-sensor takes pictures of the culture, the data is sent to the laptop and so cultures can be monitored as they grow. The technique is apparently particularly useful in the imaging of cells that grow very close to one another. The ePetri is able to monitor the entire field, but can still zoom in on areas of interest within the culture.

Likely deployment of ePetri
The research team sees many possibilities  the deployment of ePetri, such as drug screening and detection of toxic compounds. It could even provide microscopy-imaging capabilities for other portable diagnostic lab-on-a-chip tools. The team is also working on a more comprehensive system that would include a small incubator, transforming the ePetri into a desktop diagnostic tool.

Scientific community has been actively looking into exploiting iPhones and other smartphone as diagnostic tools by adding peripheral kits.  Future entails more development along these line and we look forward to these.

 Via

One Response

  1. “The prototype was built using a smartphone, a commercially available cell-phone image sensor and Lego building blocks, instead of using a large, heavy instrument, for providing high-quality images of cells.”

    Now that is what I call amazing. Today’s technology is incredible, and it’s so accessible to nearly everyone. Legos and a phone to make a microscope? That’s pretty good.

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