CellScope: Telemicroscopy for Disease Diagnosis

One of the most basic—yet powerful—tools in all of science and medicine is the microscope. The Fletcher Lab at the University of California, Berkeley, designed equipment to turn the camera of a standard cell phone into a diagnostic-quality microscope with a magnification of 5x-60x. Cell-phone microscopy enables visualization of samples, followed by capture, organization, and transmission of images critical for diagnosis. This technology is applicable in a wide range of applications beyond diagnostic medicine.

Started as a CITRIS seed-funded project, the CellScope underwent international field testing in the DR Congo during the summer of 2008. Researchers have been able to build functional prototypes and demonstrate high-quality microscopy from the CellScope. Prototypes have demonstrated diagnostic-quality imaging of tuberculosis, malaria, and sickle cell disease. The research resulted a journal publication along with wide coverage in new media outlets.

The project won the Vodafone Innovation competition in 2009, and continuing work is being funded by Intel, Vodafone, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Blum Center. The research team is now incorporated and went through Rock Health’s first class in San Francisco in 2011. Future CellScope products will leverage the platform for throat and skin exams and non-clinical applications including consumer skincare. The system is currently in pilot testing with doctors in the Bay Area.

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