UCLA Scientist's Cell Phone Microscope Named Top Innovation of 2011

The portable, less expensive microscope provides a better view for global health researchers

By Jonathan Lloyd
|  Friday, Jan 6, 2012  |  Updated 10:48 AM PDT
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LA's Top Newsmakers of 2011

UCLA

The cell phone microscope, LUCAS.

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A UCLA scientist's cell phone microscope -- pocket-size technology for global health researchers -- is the top innovation of 2011, according to a list published by The Scientist magazine.

Instead of using a bulky and expensive device to analyze slides, LUCAS (Lensless, Ultra-wide-field Cell monitoring Array platform based on Shadow imaging) can be attached to a cell phone camera for a close-up look at blood and saliva samples after they are placed on a small slide over the cell phone camera's sensor.

The tiny microscope cell phones -- the 50-gram microscope was made from parts that cost about $10 -- could be used in remote locations to help diagnose diseases. The images can be sent from the field by the phone to hospitals for analysis

It's the creation of Aydogan Ozcan, an electrical engineer at UCLA.

"We have more than 5 billion cell phone subscribers around the world today, and because of this, cell phones can now play a central role in telemedicine applications," said Ozcan. "Our research group has already created a very nice set of tools that can potentially replace most of the advanced instruments used currently in laboratories."

Researchers also have created a cell-phone based flow cytometer (pictured, right), which can be used to image bodily fluids to check for infections and monitor HIV/AIDS. The device can be used in the field, unlike a traditional flow cytometer.

Field tests of the cell-phone microscope began last year in Africa. It will be brought to the Amazon next year in an effort to diagnose malaria, anemia, low white blood-cell count and intestinal parasites.

Other innovations recognized by The Scientist include a Mini MRI machine and a watch-like device that monitors circadian rhythms. The magazine considered 65 entries. Click here for the full list.

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