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.

     


    Steve Baragona

    Steve Baragona is an award-winning multimedia journalist covering science, environment and health.

    He spent eight years in molecular biology and infectious disease research before deciding that writing about science was more fun than doing it. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a master’s degree in journalism in 2002.

    You May Like

    Former US Envoys Urge Obama to Delay Troop Cuts in Afghanistan

    Keeping troop levels up during conflict with both Taliban and Islamic State is necessary to support Kabul government, they say

    First Lady to Visit Africa to Promote Girls' Education

    Michele Obama will be joined by daughters and actresses Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto

    Video NYSE Analyst: Brexit Will Continue to Place Pressure on Markets

    Despite orderly pricing and execution strategy at the New York Stock Exchange, analyst explains added pressure on world financial markets is likely

    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.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora