Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Use your cell phone to diagnose diseases.

Microscopy provides a simple, cost-effective, and vital method for the diagnosis and screening of hematologic and infectious diseases.It is an essential tool in disease diagnosis and widely used all over the world. Unfortunately, the EXPERTISE required to use the tool, and to evaluate the findings is not very common. One requires a pathologist with many years of experience to make sense of those seemingly random and confused pixels. (I know, i am a pathologist :-)

It takes a lot of effort, and money to train a pathologist, equip him/her with all the instruments required, and then use the skills in a backward area without proper facilities. But the advent of digital imaging has solved many of our troubles. Telepathology made sure that we do not need a pathologist physically present at the site, to render a diagnosis.

But microscopy and digital imaging of the biopsy/tissue fragment was still a hassle. Now we have done better. You don't even need a microscope to send a microscopic image over the network!! Researchers from the Univ. of California worked with high-powered LED – which retails for just a few dollars – coupled with a typical camera phone to produce a clinical quality image sufficient for detecting in a field setting some of the most common diseases in the developing world.

The newly developed technology, CellScope, allows for average cell cameras to be retrofitted with powerful microscopes, able to detect malaria parasites, and even fluorescent marker-stained tuberculosis bacteria.
Thus you have your humble cell-phone transformed into the sherlockian "cell-scope".

“The images can either be analyzed on site or wirelessly transmitted to clinical centers for remote diagnosis. The system could be used to help provide early warning of outbreaks by shortening the time needed to screen, diagnose and treat infectious diseases,” University of California in San Francisco (UCSF)/UCB Bioengineering Graduate Group graduate student David Breslauer adds. CellScope could also provide remote access to digitized health records, and would be amenable to epidemiological studies, using triangulation or global positioning system location data, such that outbreaks could be monitored as they happen.

So maybe i could click a photomicrograph of that mole on my friend"s forearm, twitter it to my onco-pathologist friends, who view it on their smartphones and twitter / message their diagnosis back to me. Simple and fast, especially with my own group of pathologists on the network.

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