The centerpiece of their work is a smartphone- and tablet-based diagnostic tool called Cellscope, which has been customized to identify a range of problems. One group is using it to diagnose tuberculosis in respiratory tract sputum and malaria in blood. Another is diagnosing eye injuries and diseases. Others are developing Cellscope applications to detect parasites, cancers and diseases that impact agriculture.
Their innovation turns a phone into the image capture and analysis component of a system that uses bright-field and fluorescence microscopy to identify disease-causing organisms in patient fluid samples. They have created another phone attachment with a lens and LED bulbs to scan the eye for signs of injury or disease.
Combining the hardware and software with cellular connectivity also opens up the possibility of telemedicine to bring the diagnostic power once cloistered in hospital labs to regions lacking doctors, clinics and infrastructure. “With these platforms, you can test a patient in one place, transmit the data to another place and get a diagnosis from a distant expert,” says Fletcher.