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Inexpensive Flow Cytometer Developed on Cell Phone Platform

Optofluidic fluorescent cytometry device (UCLA)

Optofluidic fluorescent cytometry device (UCLA)

Engineers at University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) have built a device that combines imaging cytometry and florescent microscopy and can be attached to a cell phone. The device — pictured right — used to image bodily fluids for cell counts or cell analysis, is described in the online edition of the journal Analytical Chemistry (free registration required).

Flow cytometry is a technique for counting and examining cells, bacteria, and other microscopic particles, and used to diagnose disorders and monitor the progression of diseases such as HIV. Most flow cytometers, however, are large, complex, and expensive pieces of machinery, which limits their use to more sophisticated clinical settings.

Engineering professor Aydogan Ozcan and postdoc Hongying Zhu developed an optofluidic fluorescent cytometry device for a mobile phone platform at UCLA’s BioPhotonics Laboratory. The device takes advantage of a mobile phone’s built-in camera, and adds a lens, color filter, two LEDs, and ordinary batteries with a combined cost of under $5.00.

The fluid sample is delivered continuously through a disposable microfluidic channel using a syringe pump, with illumination provided by the LEDs. An excitation light is guided in the the device, exciting the specimens in the imaging fluid. An inexpensive plastic absorption filter creates the dark-field background needed for fluorescent imaging. Video post-processing and contour-detection and tracking algorithms count and label the cells or particles passing through the microfluidic chip.

To demonstrate the device, Ozcan’s team measured the density of white blood cells in human whole-blood samples; white blood cell density is routinely tested to diagnosis various diseases and infections, including leukemia, HIV, and bone marrow deficiencies.

The optofluidic fluorescent cytometry device is the latest advance by Ozcan’s research team, which has developed a number of scaled-down, cell phone–based health care technologies. “We have more than 5 billion cell phone subscribers around the world today,” says Ozcan, “and because of this, cell phones can now play a central role in telemedicine applications.”

Read more: FDA Issues Draft Guidance on Mobile Medical Phone Apps

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