Nanotechnology Imaging Device Shows Potential to Diagnose Diseases with Smartphones

Nanotechnology Imaging Device Shows Potential to Diagnose Diseases with Smartphones

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A nanotechnology imaging device small enough to fit on a smartphone lens has the potential to make diagnosis of certain diseases accessible and affordable to people in rural and remote areas, according to Australian scientists who they developed it.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put an emphasis on diagnostics and the World Health Organization has called on countries to prioritize investments in quality diagnostics as a first step to control, treat and prevent infections and diseases.

Scientists from the University of Melbourne and the Australian Research Council Center of Excellence for Transformative Meta-Optical Systems (TMOS) published details of the device in the journal. ACS photonics.

Currently, disease detection relies primarily on light microscopes to study changes in biological cells.

This typically involves staining cells with chemicals in a lab setting and using high-end microscopes, which are bulky and expensive.”

Lukas Wesemann, lead author of the study and researcher at the University of Melbourne and TMOS

Researchers have miniaturized phase imaging technology with the use of metasurfaces that can manipulate light passing through them to make invisible aspects of objects, such as living biological cells, visible. Phase images are based on contrasting levels of transparency between the tissues or cells under study.

“Our planar optical device, which is only a few hundred nanometers thick, can perform the same type of microscopy technique that is widely used in the study of biological cells. It can be embedded over a camera lens to help detect changes in biological cells. telltale signs of disease,” says Wesemann.

Diseases such as malaria, leishmaniasis, trypanosomiasis and babesiosis, which can be detected by light microscopy, are potential candidates for detection with this device in the future.

“The advantage of being able to visualize cells with this type of device is that they can be alive and it is not necessary to process them before being able to visualize them. It is in real time and does not require computer processing. The device does all the work,” says study co-author Ann Roberts, TMOS Principal Investigator and Professor at the University of Melbourne.

In addition to allowing remote medical diagnoses, this new tool could make it possible to detect diseases at home. Patients could obtain their own samples via saliva or a drop of blood and send the image to a laboratory anywhere in the world for rapid evaluation and diagnosis.

“Early diagnosis could make rapid treatment possible and lead to better health outcomes. Making medical diagnostic devices smaller, cheaper and more portable will help disadvantaged regions access healthcare that is currently only available to first world countries,” adds Roberts.

The current prototype device costs around US$700 to manufacture, since it is made with the tools that are also used in the manufacture of electronic chips for computers. The researchers say they are seeking industry collaboration to commercialize the device.

“We are confident that in the near future we will be able to produce manufacturing methods that are more suitable for mass production and reduce the cost of the device to pennies,” Wesemann said. SciDev.Net.

“It’s a very basic technique that any engineer could incorporate and integrate into any mobile medical imaging device, it doesn’t even have to be a smartphone.”

Michael Abramoff, an ophthalmologist, computer engineer, and founder and CEO of the American company Digital Diagnostics, says SciDev.Net“This is a new imaging modality, and the feasibility of such optical phase imaging using incident light is promising, as there are many nearly transparent tissues that are difficult to image without contrast or radiation.

“We look forward to the application of this modality to biological tissues, and in particular to the retina, as this is where neural and vascular tissues can be imaged simultaneously.”

The fountain:

Magazine reference:

Westman, L. et al. (2022) Real-time phase imaging with an asymmetric transfer function metasurface. DHW photonics. doi.org/10.1021/acsphotonics.2c00346.

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