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Half a dozen palm-sized, plastic gadgets lie scattered across the desk in Aydogan Ozcan’s UCLA office. Each device is a different type of low-cost medical diagnostic tool. Several of them contain a lens-free microscope of Ozcan’s own invention. And all of them rely on the powers of the cellphone. “If you add up all the architecture at the back of a cellphone—electronics, optics, software, connectivity—it holds phenomenal promise for use as a platform,” he says.
University of California Los AngelesOzcan, an electrical engineer, grew up in Turkey, where he saw that advanced medicine sometimes didn’t reach the country’s rural areas. In many parts of the world, ailments are never even diagnosed. Ozcan’s medical devices could fix that. For example, a rural health-care worker could drop blood onto a slide and load it into Ozcan’s phone-mounted microscope. The phone’s camera captures an image of the sample which is then used to determine a diagnosis. Another of Ozcan’s devices reads the results of rapid diagnostic tests, and an app interprets them almost instantaneously.
The data won’t just be useful to individual patients. Ozcan has also developed a Google Maps interface to plot test results, which could be used to track the geographic spread of infectious diseases. “It will give us rich data that will allow us to understand things that we never have before,” he says.
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