Jan 18, 2017 | By Julia

A new study published in the scientific journal Nature Communications shows how a 3D printed phone case could detect cancer-related genetic mutations. Through a relatively simple microscope attached to a mobile phone, researchers were able to detect cancerous tumors with the same accuracy as traditional cancer screening. The cost-effective tech could help bring the genotyping of cancer patient biopsies beyond the lab, to wherever it’s needed most.

The study, titled “Targeted DNA sequencing and in situ mutation analysis using mobile phone microscopy,” is among a new generation of innovations using 3D printing and smartphones for science and laboratory practices. Following that trend, study coauthor Mats Nilsson, a professor at Stockholm Universitys, explains that “one can use a very simple imaging device such as the mobile phone to record DNA sequencing reactions.”

By adding molecular diagnostics to the range of applications currently available on your phone, the invention could allow for never-before-seen field work in this discipline, involving the detection of mutations and viruses or bacteria in remote locations.

The device is surprisingly simple. Two battery-powered lasers and a white LED light go into the microscope, allowing for detection of different fluorophores and bright-field imaging. The basic camera lens of the mobile phone is coupled with an external lens: together they provide about 2.6x magnification. Finally, a 3D printed microscopy platform can view sample slides in multiple directions.

Through imaging six colon cancer tumour samples, the tech was found to match the results of traditional genome sequencing 100 percent of the time – essentially a perfect score.

The groundbreaking device was created specifically with low-resource medical environments in mind. As coauthor Aydogan Ozcan of the University of California, Los Angeles notes, mutation analysis and DNA sequencing “are fantastic devices that have been brought to clinical sciences, but [they are] restricted to the laboratory scale and obviously not dispersed to resource-poor or resource-limited environments.”

With this device, however, researchers have a shot at changing that. If it takes off, advanced diagnostic tools could be available in the not-too-distant future in settings other than affluent hospitals and labs. According to Ozcan, the team will continue to work towards making the technology cost-effective and easier to use.

Future applications could also include testing for tuberculosis [TB] bacteria. Nilsson is confident the research team could “check for mutations in antibiotic resistance genes and then make a simple test to predict which antibiotic treatment would be efficient in a TB patient.”

In fact, the possible extensions and uses of the device are theoretically limitless. The platform could even be used during a viral outbreak in a remote location, Nilsson adds. “You could present the analyzed data remotely to the experts, and then that can feed back to the user more or less immediately.”

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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