Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), have formulated an inexpensive portable microscope which has the potential to detect E.Coli and other such bacteria. This hand-held device employs laser rather than lenses to spot bugs in water, food or blood, and total building cost was reportedly less than $100. Once the bugs are spotted, images can then be wired to computers for advance analysis. Scientists believe that this technology can improve healthcare in areas lacking in sophisticated diagnostic equipment, like in most of the developing countries. The journal Biomedical Optics Express even issued the details of this microscope.
The device features two modes of operation:
[*]Transmission Mode: Analyses liquids like blood and water.
[*]Reflection Mode: Produces holographic images of denser surfaces.
<div>Dr Karl Ryder of Leicester University's Advanced Microscopy Centre explained, "Transmission mode is great for looking at optically transparent things like cells or very thin slices. However, if you want to look at more solid surfaces, you can't use transmission mode, because the light wouldn't get through." By means of reflection mode, the microscope employed holography to develop a 3D image of the sample being examined. Dr Ryder said, "You take a laser and you split the beam in two using a mirror. Then you use one of these beams to illuminate your sample. You can then recombine these two beams using clever mathematics to build a 3D image of your object."A major advantage of the design is that it uses inexpensive electrical components rather than heavy and costly lenses. The microscope uses cheaply available digital photo sensors normally used in devices like iPhones and Blackberrys. These total about $15 each to develop. Dr Ryder said, "There are no optics at all in this system. They've made it really small, and they're looking at small sample sizes, so you don't need complex focusing." Even though it's cheap, researchers claim that the device can successfully detect bacteria like E.Coli. Prof Aydogan Ozcan from UCLA said, "It's a very challenging task to detect E. coli in low concentrations in water and food. This microscope could be part of a solution for field investigation." He believes that this device will turn up quite useful in the developing countries. "With just a small amount of training, doctors could use devices like these to improve healthcare in remote areas of the world with little access to diagnostic equipment."</div>