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iPhone doubles up as medical device

iPhones can now perform detailed medical imaging techniques like microscopy and spectroscopy. The smartphones can help doctors diagnose blood diseases in developing nations where many hospitals and rural clinics have limited or no access to laboratory equipment.

india Updated: Oct 04, 2011 18:41 IST

A team of researchers from the University of California, Davis has transformed everyday iPhones into medical-quality imaging and chemical detection devices.


With materials that cost about as much as a typical app, the decked-out smartphones are able to use their heightened senses to perform detailed microscopy and spectroscopy.

The enhanced iPhones could help doctors and nurses diagnose blood diseases in developing nations where many hospitals and rural clinics have limited or no access to laboratory equipment.

In addition to bringing new sensing capabilities where they are needed most, the modified phones are also able to transmit the real-time data to colleagues around the globe for further analysis and diagnosis.

“Field workers could put a blood sample on a slide, take a picture, and send it to specialists to analyze," said lead scientist Sebastian Wachsmann-Hogiu, a physicist with UC Davis' Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and the Centre for Biophotonics, Science and Technology.

Even though smartphone micrographs are not as sharp as those from laboratory microscopes, they are able to reveal important medical information, such as the reduced number and increased variation of cells in iron deficiency anaemia, and the banana-shaped red blood cells characteristic of sickle cell anaemia.

When researchers need additional diagnostic tools, the microscope could be swapped for a simple spectrometer that also uses light collected by the iPhone's camera.

The team will present their findings at the Optical Society's (OSA) Annual Meeting, Frontiers in Optics (FiO) 2011, taking place in San Jose, Calif. Oct. 16-20.