Researchers have developed a new device, a smartphone microscope, that could help detect diseases based on gene sequencing at a low cost.
The human DNA is still one of our greatest mysteries. It offers an unlimited source of new information. It can also reveal a lot about a person. Scientists can use it to detect potential diseases. Specific gene mutations or issues have been linked to various health problems.
And now, a team of researchers developed a new diseases detection device. The smartphone-based microscope relies on gene sequencing. This later usually require well-equipped labs. Which are not always within reach or budget.
The research team featured a collaboration. UCLA’s California NanoSystems Institute researchers took part. As did Swedish Uppsala University and Stockholm University scientists.
Research was led by Aydogan Ozcan. He is the UCLA Chancellor’s Professor of Electrical Engineering and Bioengineering. Ozcan is also an Uppsala and Stockholm Universities Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics.
A paper on the matter was released earlier this week. It was published in the Nature Communications journal. The study paper was released online on January 17 and titled as follows. “Targeted DNA sequencing and in situ mutation analysis using mobile phone microscopy”.
Their smartphone microscope works as follows. The microscope was adapted to plug into a smartphone. As such, it will be able to access its camera. Through the phone camera, they will scan the human DNA.
This low-cost device could be a medical breakthrough. It could be easily accessible throughout the world. Especially so in developing or under-developed regions. These latter are the device’s main target.
The American – Swedish researchers worked on developing this smartphone microscope. It can image and analyze DNA sequences. It can target specific genetic mutations in the cells or tissue samples. And it can do so without the need to first extract the DNA.
Ozcan, the aforementioned lead, offered some details. According to him, this smartphone microscope could cost around $500. It is significantly cheaper when compared to typical microscopes. Multiple imaging modes such devices can cost in between $10,000 to $50,000.
The scientists designed a lightweight such optical attachment. This should be compatible with any standard smartphone and its camera. Their device is produced by a 3D printer.
But it is capable of capturing bright-field images. And also multi-color fluorescence ones. All at the same quality as that of a common light microscope.
Their smartphone microscope device works as follows. The user places a tissue sample in a container. Then, the device will capture the processed’ sample multi-mode images. Data will be sent to an algorithm. This latter will automatically analyze the images. And it will then read the DNA sequences.
It will be looking for specific mutations directly inside the sample. Or it can read the data from extracted tumor DNA. UCLA scientists stated that it can detect any amount of cancer cells. Even small ones. Or if they are hidden amongst normal cells.
This smartphone microscope can work as a ultra-low cost DNA sequencing tool. Or as a tumor biopsy analyzer. As such, it can help decrease diagnosis costs. And also offer a varied, intelligent device.
The team does not intend to stop its research. They will be looking to expand the device’s capabilities. For example, it could come to identify microorganisms and bacteria. Or perhaps measure the antibiotic resistance’s genetic signature.
A smartphone microscope device prototype has been developed. However, it is as yet commercially unavailable.
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