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

New England Bears Brunt of US Blizzard

Boston, surrounding region grapple with as much as 3 feet of snow, coastal flooding; leaders in New York, spared most severe weather, criticized for being overly cautious More

China Lifts Lid on Sale of Fake Goods Online

A recent survey found nearly 60 percent of a random sample of items bought from Taobao were fake More

Upward Aims to Create Old-girls Network in Silicon Valley

Lisa Lambert, an executive with Intel Corp.'s venture-capital unit, responds to the gender-disparity debate by creating a new social organization More

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.
NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Spacei
X
Rosanne Skirble
January 27, 2015 5:05 PM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.
Video

Video Weekly Protests in Korea Keep Japanese WWII Atrocities Alive

Every week in Seoul protesters gather in front of the Japanese Embassy to demand an apology and reparations from Tokyo for the thousands of South Korean women who were forced into prostitution during World War II. Although this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, these protestors have helped keep the issue of comfort women alive and made it difficult for Japan to move beyond its past wartime atrocities. VOA's Brian Padden reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Exercise: New Prescription for Parkinsons Disease

Exercise could be the new prescription for Parkinson's Disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. More than six million people worldwide suffer from Parkinsons and they're traditionally treated with medication and surgery. Shelley Schlender has more.
Video

Video Brussels Shaken as New Greek Leader Challenges Europe’s Austerity Drive

Greece’s youngest-ever prime minister, 40-year-old Alexis Tsipras, was sworn in Monday after his victorious far-left Syriza party entered a coalition with far right rivals. Tsipras says he will restore dignity to Greece by ending spending cuts. So begins a new chapter for the country at the epicenter of Europe’s economic crisis - a change that has sent tremors across the continent, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Oil Price Drop Troubles Texas Producers

As oil prices have fallen over the past several months, drilling operations have slowed in some parts of the United States - including Texas, the state that surpasses all others in energy production. The Lone Star State’s energy output has been boosted in recent years by development of resources trapped deep below ground in the Eagle Ford shale deposit, which stretches across south central Texas. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Karnes City, Texas, the drop in oil prices has created concerns,
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid