Despite all the huge advances in medical technology in the past couple centuries, petri dishes, one of the most crucial pieces of equipment, haven't changed much at all. Now a grad student at Caltech has finally brought these flat-bottomed bowls into the 21st century.
The new device, dubbed ePetri, uses an imaging chip from a mobile phone camera, a smartphone and Lego blocks. The imaging chip acts as the petri dish in the traditional sense, holding the cell culture beneath a sheet of protective plastic. The square chip is placed inside a platform made of Legos, and an Android phone hooks in place on top. The phone's LED screen is used as a scanning light source, illuminating the image sensor.
The whole thing goes inside an incubator, and a cable connects to a computer outside, which reads the image sensor. This allows researchers to watch cell growth in real time — no extra cell transport, pipetting or external microscopes required. Watch a video below to see how well the system works.
Cell culture involves lots of cell transport, moving from incubators to microscope plates and back again. The process is time-consuming and laborious, so any processes that can automate cell culture would be a welcome advance. It also cuts down on contamination risks, explains Guoan Zheng, an electrical engineering grad student and lead author of the paper describing the ePetri.
The ePetri allows wide-field images of confluent cells, which are cells that grow tightly together. Other Caltech scientists have already put it to the test, according to a news release from the university: Biologist Michael Elowitz used it to observe embryonic stem cells. Stem cells differentiate in different ways, so a biologist looking through a microscope would only be looking at one small group, akin to wearing blinders. But the ePetri let Elowitz study stem cells on the entire device.
"It radically re-conceives the whole idea of what a light microscope is," he said.
The team believes the ePetri could be used for labs-on-a-chip or other portable diagnostic devices, according to Caltech. Zheng and colleagues are working on a new self-contained version that includes a small incubator, which would be useful for diagnostic tests that would not require sending samples out to a lab.
The ePetri is described in the online version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Lego is possibly one of the best toys ever made! Love it.
A waist of a smart phone and one expensive light.
Won't this smart phone get contaminated? Sure now they are all wearing gloves, but later after they leave the lab, the smart phone rings and he naturally hand grasp the phone and put it next to his face and breaths in the microbes.
Unless were suppose to believe they will never use the smart phone again and just keep it inside the lab?
I am not to impressed with this new microbe device.
Hey Sprite if you are not impressed make something better...no one really cares about how impressed you are atleast this guy is doing something to advance his feild. What have you done lately other than finish off that bag of chips in record time.
To be a critic or to be criticized, what goes around comes around eh.
No worries to you, Delkomatic. Have a good day!
Ok, as you wish, I applaud him for his ability to be inventive and innovative, rather than sit on one’s buttocks. So there! ;)
Comments about the Smartphone ... get a brain guys. the phone is just being used because it's easy. same as why lego was used as the stand, and not some fancy 3D printed apparatus.
they spent all their time on the actual imaging, adapting the hardware and the software to do so would have been time consuming enough. making a movie file of the white ball scanning across and down and then plugging in the phone so the battery wouldn't die while it was in there was just an easy way of doing that part.
what's the alternative? a soldering board a PIC , some more programming and a pile of led's that would be too bright without dimming.
i'm sure commenters have already considered that the brightness of the scanning light would be trial and error. how eay is it to change a phones screen brightness vs a led board you soldered together.... yeah.
"the smart phone." .. "what a waist of a smart phone" .. "smartphone... blah blah blah.."
Delkomatic's got the right idea... impressive, way more impressive, useful and time consuming than the pile of cereal bowls, pop cans and empty chip bags surrounding your computer desk .
Making a battery power strobe light with the ability to vary the strobing effect and brightness is not hard at all, at least for me and not for a lot of other electronic tech\engineering folk. Yes it could use LEDs or incandescent lights, whatever. Seriously, this could be made for $50 or less. I speak with experience.
I am moving on now... See ya. ;)
But, yea, his idea works too. Good JOB!
For a starting point method, this is fantastic. We just bought a microscope system with incubator for studying the uptake of drugs over time. Price $430,000. So, if you can get a system up ad running with a cell phone, you're doing it right.
@Sprite "...I am moving on now..."
Yes please. It is great that you are so technically adept, but it is a shame that you are such a tool.
Those who share and implement hate will one day be swallowed up by their own parasitical worms.
Nice gadget for study of bugs. The Borg would be please to steal this idea. Excellent uses of an intelligent communications portable device combine with an image scanner.
Awesome!!! I'll be submitting my PhD application momentarily.