Don’t get surprised…The camera on your phone could soon help save your life by testing to see if you have cancer. Yes, cancer can be diagnosed in less than an hour using a smartphone app… A smartphone-based device developed by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), US can help doctors perform rapid and accurate molecular diagnosis of cancerous or non-cancerous tumours.In a recent study, the researchers describe a smartphone-based device that uses technology for making holograms to collect detailed microscopic images for digital analysis of the molecular composition of cells and tissues. The device, 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. These images can then be sent to a central computer for analysis and then the result returned in less than 45 minutes.Let’s see how D3 will work.
- A tissue sample is taken from a biopsy or blood from a simple finger prick and is mixed with microbeads labelled with specific antibodies.
- This mixture is then placed on a slide which is inserted into a module that can clip onto the camera of a smartphone.
- An LED at the back of the module illuminates the sample on the slide and lens in the module magnifies the image, which is then captured using the camera on the phone.
- When clumped around a cell, the beads alter the way the light is scattered by the sample.
- They produce distinctive diffraction patterns in in the image if clumped together.
- The user can send this image to a central computer for analysis.
The use of variously sized or coated beads may offer unique diffraction signatures to facilitate detection. A numerical algorithm developed by the research team for the D3 platform can distinguish cells from beads and analyse as much as 10 MB of data in less than nine-hundredths of a second. The data is transmitted for analysis to a remote graphic-processing server via a secure, encrypted cloud service. The results can be rapidly returned to the point of care.
Advantages include : –
- Based on the number of antibody-tagged microbeads binding to cells, D3 analysis promptly and reliably categorised biopsy samples as high-risk, low-risk or benign, with results matching those of conventional pathologic analysis.
- 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 generated by the system matches with the conventional gold standard pathology or HPV testing for molecular profiling.
- A single cancer diagnosis test costs around £1.20 ($1.80).
The device is 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.
For molecular analysis of tumors, a sample of blood or tissue is labeled with microbeads that bind to known cancer-related molecules and loaded into the D3 imaging module. After the image is recorded and data transmitted to the server, the presence of specific molecules is detected by analyzing the diffraction patterns generated by the microbeads. The use of variously sized or coated beads may offer unique diffraction signatures to facilitate detection. A numerical algorithm developed by the research team for the D3 platform is capable of distinguishing cells from beads and of analyzing as much as 10 MB of data in less than nine hundredths of a second. D3 analysis of fine-needle lymph node biopsy samples was accurately able to differentiate four patients whose lymphoma diagnosis was confirmed by conventional pathology from another four with benign lymph node enlargement. Besides protein analysis, the system was enhanced to successfully detect DNA, in this instance from human papilloma virus, with great sensitivity. The scientists used an iPhone 4S in their tests which means an 8MP camera is enough.
They also used it to detect infection with human papilloma virus, which is thought to cause the cancer. Having filed a patent application for the D3 technology, the researchers will further test the device in resource-limited areas. In future they hopes to use the D3 System to test for cervical cancer, a third most prevalent cancer with most of that occurring outside the U.S.
Smartphones and wearable electronics have advanced tremendously over the last several years but fall short of allowing their use for molecular diagnostics. Because the system is compact, easy to operate, and readily integrated with the standard, portable smartphone, this approach could enable medical diagnostics in geographically and/or socioeconomically limited areas to accurately and cheaply diagnose cancer. Surely it’s a boon with essential features at an extraordinary low cost.