UCLA Spotlight

Cellphone Microscope

  • Published Jan 12, 2010 10:15 AM

Cell phones have come a long way in the last decade. Today one can text message, take photos, shoot videos, send and receive emails, and access the World Wide Web. Now imagine a cell phone that can be used to monitor diseases like HIV or malaria and can be used to test water quality after a major disaster like a hurricane or an earthquake. Prof. Aydogan Ozcan's cell phone — turned mobile medical lab — could alter the direction of global health in the developing world, as well as developed nations in the next several years.

One major enhancement to Ozcan's cell phone prototype is LUCAS, an innovative lens-free, high throughput imaging platform invented by Ozcan. Because LUCAS does not use a lens, the only constraint on size is the size of the chip it is built on.

The compact, lightweight and portable nature of LUCAS makes the potential impact of Ozcan's mobile lab very exciting. Currently, microscopes and advanced medical lab equipment, like flow cytometers, represent the standard for examining, identifying and counting cells. But they are bulky, cost tens of thousands of dollars and require trained technicians to operate. According to Ozcan, the LUCAS platform can be produced rather inexpensively — parts cost less than $10 — and all one needs is a simple camera phone.

"In the coming months, we'll be collaborating with the infectious diseases unit at UCLA's Geffen School of Medicine to test LUCAS in clinical settings here and overseas. I am proud of my group's work, knowing we will continue to impact life through new innovations in one of the best interdisciplinary research environments in the country," said Ozcan.

A UCLA Engineering professor and member of the California NanoSystems Institute, Ozcan was recently named one of Technology Review’s top young innovators under the age of 35 and was honored in 2009 with a NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award, and an IEEE Photonics Society Young Investigator Award.