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Smartphone-based device could provide rapid, low-cost cancer diagnosis

Smartphone-based device could provide rapid, low-cost cancer diagnosis

Published on: 14th Apr 2015

A device developed by Massachusetts General Hospital investigators may bring rapid, accurate molecular diagnosis of tumors and other diseases to locations lacking the latest medical technology.

In their report appearing in PNAS Early Edition, the researchers describe a smartphone-based device that uses the kind of technology used to make holograms to collect detailed microscopic images for digital analysis of the molecular composition of cells and tissues.

The device the team has developed – called the D3 (digital diffraction diagnosis) system – features an imaging module with a battery-powered LED light clipped onto a standard smartphone that records high-resolution imaging data with its camera. With a much greater field of view than traditional microscopy, the D3 system is capable of recording data on more than 100,000 cells from a blood or tissue sample in a single image. The data can then be transmitted for analysis to a remote graphic-processing server via a secure, encrypted cloud service, and the results rapidly returned to the point of care.

A pilot test of the system with cancer cell lines detected the presence of tumor proteins with an accuracy matching that of the current gold standard for molecular profiling, and the larger field of view enabled simultaneous analysis of more than 100,000 cells at a time.

“We expect that the D3 platform will enhance the breadth and depth of cancer screening in a way that is feasible and sustainable for resource limited-settings,” says Ralph Weissleder, MD, PhD, director of the MGH Center for Systems Biology (CSB) and co-senior author of the paper. “By taking advantage of the increased penetration of mobile phone technology worldwide, the system should allow the prompt triaging of suspicious or high-risk cases that could help to offset delays caused by limited pathology services in those regions and reduce the need for patients to return for follow-up care, which is often challenging for them.”

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