Smartphones for Clinical Diagnostics

21st February, 2020

Dr. Ahmad Usman is a faculty member of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) at Habib University. The recipient of US Fullbright Scholarship, Dr. Usman completed his Masters in Electrical and Mechanical Engineering and Ph.D. in ECE through Georgia Institute of Technology. His doctoral work covers a variety of interdisciplinary fields including integration of functional proteomics, microfluids, nanofabrication, surface chemistry, and nano-optics for the realization of a novel lab-on-a-chip platform. Interestingly, the Professor is also passionate about photography and cooking.

Dr. Usman’s lecture was a marvel to behold as he spoke about the possibility of converting smartphones to fluorescence microscopes and thereby enabling phones to be used for detection of infectious diseases. Clinical diagnostics involve the inefficiencies of not being accessible at all times and not giving quick results. Laboratory tests take quite some time, requiring specialised equipment, dedicated facilities and trained staff, all of which mandates costly resources that pose a greater problem for developing countries. The diagnostics process can be made smoother and more efficient through Point of Care (POC) devices such as blood sugar and blood pressure meters, that can be conveniently used at home for quick results. The speaker emphasised how POCs and smart devices in addition to being cost effective, also pack the advantages of being easy to use, portable and providing connectivity.

To demonstrate his point, Dr. Usman presented how a smart phone can be converted into a microscope that can be used to test red blood cell concentration. A step by step guide on how to build your own fluorescence microscope attachable to a smart phone, using a torch, fluorescence filter, micro zoom lenses, tripod, wireless clicker and a DSLR camera application proved the constructible device easily attainable. With the help of the microscope, it became possible to use the phone to test blood hemoglobin, platelets, red blood cell levels and more, whenever or wherever required.

Dr. Usman brought along his own converted device for the audience. During his demonstration, he also highlighted the built-in capabilities already existing within daily use smart devices like smart phones. From thermometers, motion and light sensors to health monitors, the advanced technology of smart devices hold immense potential for enabling easy and accessible means of diagnostics. Focusing on the development of such diagnostic devices as well as incorporating more advanced systems into smart devices appears a desirable direction for the health technology industry.