Tiny microscopes that can be fitted onto any mobile phone with a camera and used to diagnose illnesses in remote areas may have the potential to revolutionise healthcare in developing world.
Just last month, an international group of scientists published a paper in which they showed how such a microscope can be used to detect worm disease in Tanzania.
Now, the team behind the world's smallest microscope announced in 2010, has published a video in the peer-reviewed video journal, the Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE), explaining how to assemble a cameraphone microscope.
The team, led by the University of California Los Angeles's Aydogan Ozcan, show how a mobile-phone camera can capture images from a fluorescence microscope, and from a technique called fluorescence flow cytometry, which analyses microscopic particles such as cells.
They hope the kit will make it possible for areas with limited resources to run tests such as checking for contaminated water and monitoring HIV patients.
"There is a huge need for these devices. Resource-poor countries demand compact, cost-effective and light-weight devices to replace bulky equipment common in our labs and hospitals," Ozcan said in a press release. "These devices bring the diagnostic, testing, and microanalysis capabilities of larger machines to your cellphone."
The device can be constructed for less than US$50 plus the cost of the phone, compared with more than US$150,000 for a full-sized fluorescent flow cytometers, according to the JoVE release.
"A cellphone has almost the computing power of a super computer of the early 1990s, and with over six billion cellphone subscribers in the world there is a massive cost reduction to owning a cellphone," Ozcan added.
Alexa Meehan, JoVE's deputy editorial director for physical sciences tells SciDev.Net that videos such as Ozcan's are extremely useful for other scientists to understand and reproduce methods in their own disciplines, thereby helping to advance science at a faster pace.
JoVE bills itself as the first and only PubMed/MEDLINE-indexed, peer-reviewed journal devoted to publishing scientific research in a video format. It publishes videos of researchers performing new experimental techniques in the fields of biology, medicine, chemistry, and physics, with the aim of allowing students and scientists to learn them much more quickly.
"A journal in a video format is essential for increasing reproducibility and transparency in science," Meehan says.
She adds that the videos mean researchers can learn techniques "without having to spend the thousands of dollars associated with travelling to other labs".
Apart from videos related to new technological developments, JoVE publishes video articles about updates to methods that have been used for decades, adds Meehan.
JoVE doi:10.3791/50451 (2013)