University of California, Davis researchers have developed a creative way to utilitze an existing iPhone 4, a relatively inexpensive add on lens, and an app they wrote to convert the popular smartphone into a sophisticated medical imaging and chemical-detection device.

The new app will be displayed at the annual meeting of the Optical Society of America in San Jose, California on Oct. 16-20, 2011.

The imedicalapps team has previously reported on the ubiquitousness of iphones and iPads in the healthcare community and it appears that this device taps into that market.

“The device combines the power of a simple, relatively inexpensive add-on lens and the iPhone’s existing camera to provide a remarkable level of medical-quality magnification. Although the tiny lens distorts the light it collects and magnifies, software helps render a near microscope-quality image.”

For example, the picture below represents images taken from a standard microscope and the modified iPhone 4. These are stained samples of pollen (left images) and plant stems (right two images).  Can you detect the differences between them?

The differences are slight. If you guessed the top row was a commercial microscope and the bottom row is the iPhone microscope, give yourself a hand.

In fact, additional test images the researchers used were able to show proof that the modified iPhone is capable of providing detailed pictures of individual cells.

“Combined with the existing communications capabilities of the smartphone, the device could become a relatively inexpensive, flexible medical imaging device. Promoters envision health care workers using the device to collect bedside data in remote clinics throughout the developing world. The images could be uploaded for consultation with experts in distant locations.”

The diagnostic possibilities are huge with the capabilities of the iphone 4 camera. While the source article was written before the recent news of the iPhone 4S, the improved optical capabilities combined with its new 8 MP lens will most certainly mean that the same, if not, better quality images can be taken.

“Field workers could put a blood sample on a slide, take a picture, and send it to specialists to analyze,” says Sebastian Wachsmann-Hogiu, a physicist at U. C. Davis, and lead author of the research. Additional diagnostic tools are possible by swapping out lenses, say the device’s developers. They’ve created a lens capable of transforming the iPhone into a spectrometer, for instance. Although still in the developmental phase, researchers believe it may help transform the iPhone into a device capable of sophisticated tasks such as measuring the amount of oxygen dissolved in a drop of blood, or identifying chemical markers of disease.”

Source: Earthtimes