News / Science & Technology

    $1 Paper Microscope Could Help Diagnose Disease

    $1 Paper Microscope Could Help Diagnose Diseasei
    X
    Steve Baragona
    June 27, 2014 10:04 PM
    A $1 paper microscope aims to help diagnose diseases in the developing world. And its creators say it offers a new way to see the world around us. VOA’s Steve Baragona has a look.
    One-Dollar Paper Microscope Could Help Diagnose Disease

    A $1 microscope made of paper might help diagnose diseases in the developing world -- provided there are also people trained to use it.

    The folded-paper microscope, called the Foldscope, could also open the microscopic world to curious young minds.

    The Foldscope takes less than 10 minutes to put together from folded pieces of pre-cut paperboard.

    It’s a simple design, but powerful: its tiny lens can magnify samples 2,000-fold.

    Tool to fight malaria

    The Foldscope's designers say it could be a big help in countries plagued by malaria, for instance.

    The World Health Organization estimates the disease killed more than 600,000 people in 2012.

    But, “there are many different strains, there are many different medications, and you could potentially make the problem even worse,” said Stanford University bioengineer and Foldscope co-designer Manu Prakash in a university video.

    It’s important to know which kind of malaria the patient has -- or if she has malaria at all.

    Powerful but fragile tool

    Microscopes are the most common way to identify what is causing the patient’s symptoms.

    But Duke University bioengineer Robert Malkin notes that microscopes are often broken in many labs around the developing world.

    "It's pretty amazing, actually," he said. "The number of broken microscopes is overwhelming."

    Those that can’t be fixed must be replaced, but, Malkin added, “None of our hospitals can afford to buy a microscope. They’re far too expensive.”

    That’s where the Foldscope comes in.

    Easy to assemble

    The user punches the body of the scope out of pre-cut card stock, folds it up, and solders in a cheap LED light. The most expensive part is the high-power lens, a 56-cent ball of glass. The low-power lens only costs 17 cents.

    “It was a hard challenge thinking of making the best possible instrument, but almost for free,” Prakash said. “That was our starting line.”

    Foldscope is cheap but durable. Lab videos show members dropping one from a three-story building and stepping on it, but it still works.

    “It’s a step in the right direction,” Malkin said.

    “But there are a lot of other considerations in a microscope to make it actually work on the ground,” he added.

    In many developing countries, staff who know how to use a microscope can be harder to find than the microscopes themselves, notes London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine epidemiologist Aurelie Jeandron.

    “A microscope without trained human resources is quite useless,”  she observed.

    But Jeandron adds that Foldscope could be a useful educational tool. She works to improve access to clean water and sanitation, and she says if people could see the microbes in water that make them sick, “that might help change their behaviors and their beliefs.”

    Getting microscopes to the masses

    Putting microscopes in the hands of the masses is part of Prakash’s mission. His group is launching the “Ten Thousand Microscopes Project,” which will distribute Foldscopes to volunteers around the world. They will field-test the Foldscope and come up with their own ways to use it.

    People from 130 countries have signed up. Prakash hopes to deliver all the microscopes by the end of the summer.

    He acknowledges the “training gap” in developing-world healthcare. But he hopes that making the tools available will be a step forward.

    And he looks forward to opening eyes and minds to the wonders of the microscopic world.

     

    You May Like

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: JerrBear from: Northern Calfornia
    June 18, 2014 11:14 PM
    I like the idea of a paper microscope, it's is great Idea!
    Back when the iPhone was born, some one or group at Berkely came up with a clamp-on Microscope, placed over the existing lens of the i-phone and photograph what ever you had under the microscopic lens, and send the subject via-e-mail where ever it was to go! PS: Pardon my spelling?

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.