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| Human World on Mar 26, 2009

Aydogan Ozcan’s cell phone doubles as AIDS detection lab

Optics expert Ozcan optics expert modified a standard cellphone with a camera sensor to diagnose malaria and monitor HIV-infected patients. He talks about how this pocket-sized device can benefit people in the most impoverished parts of the world.

Aydogan Ozcan: Most HIV patients today are either in India or Africa, and they don’t have the resources to really take blood, send it to a central lab, get the counts back.

Aydogan Ozcan is head of the Bio- and Nano-photonics Laboratory at UCLA. He’s developing a device to detect infectious diseases in people in the most impoverished parts of the world, using a cellphone.

Aydogan Ozcan: If you look at the statistics of how cellphones are being used in the world, it’s an amazing story to find that more than 20% of the population in Africa, in India, in Brazil – they still carry cellphones.

Dr. Ozcan, who’s an optics expert, modified a standard cellphone with a camera sensor to diagnose malaria and monitor HIV-infected patients. He added a special blue light, and a place for a tiny glass slide that holds a blood sample.

Aydogan Ozcan: We detect the shadow of cells. That is kind of like the fingerprint of the cell – if it’s infected, it’s going to yield a different shadow.

Ozcan’s modified phone photographs these shadows, then sends the images to a database. Within 5 minutes, the database sends the phone a text with the results of the analysis. Dr. Ozcan believes this technology could be especially helpful to people in poor, remote villages.

Aydogan Ozcan: It’s a technology that will provide bread and butter for people who don’t have anything.

Our thanks to Aydogan Ozcan.
Aydogan Ozcan is head of the Bio-and Nano-photonics Laboratory at UCLA.