Since health care equipment is generally expensive to begin with, outfitting even a low-power microscope with a wireless transmitter capable of communicating with doctors at a remote location could easily run into the thousands of dollars. Not only that, but the equipment itself would likely be bulky, temperamental, and easily damaged. That's where CellScope comes in. Via an attachment, CellScope can turn a standard cell phone camera into a 5x to 50x microscope, essentially creating a miniaturized blood lab that can capture images and transmit them far more cheaply than traditional equipment.
The iPhone 4 pictured above isn't the first mobile phone to be hooked into the CellScope rig, but with its high-quality camera and extensive photo sharing abilities, it might end up being the best mobile device for the job. Plus, viewing microscopic images on a Retina Display sounds like a great alternative to peering into one of those microscope eyepieces. This obviously won't replace traditional setups in a fully-equipped laboratory, but for the kind of remote and rural applications that CellScope covers, it sounds like an ideal solution.
Smartphone vs. Traditional Microscope: Polarized Light
traditional microscope. Right: cell phone microscope
The CellScope clips easily to a cell phone via a modified belt clip. Illumination is provided by a ring of low-cost, low-power, high-brightness white LEDs, powered by a battery attached to the device. It can be angled to fully illuminate a sample at the focal point.
Originally the idea for the CellScope began with Daniel Fletcher, a professor of bioengineering at Berkeley, who challenged his students to develop a camera phone microscope. The team is working now on another version of the CellScope to be used in more developed countries. With the CellScope, for example, cancer patients may be able to perform critical tasks, such as blood cell counts, at home and send in the data, avoiding the need to make stressful trips to hospital.