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Not Child's Play

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Marcia StamellFor $99, a company called Giant Microbes will sell you a gadget that can turn anybody’s smartphone into a smartphone microscope. The company, which also peddles cuddly, plush models of body cells, viruses and bacteria, says its smartphone microscope has a resolution of up to 1 micron and is suitable for ages six and above.

This particular smartphone microscope is one measure of how profoundly photonics technology has impacted modern life. What a few years back seemed to be a near-miraculous capability is now being sold as a toy. In the meantime, the mobile technology that now stands to make critical differences to our health and well-being has reached striking levels of sophistication and complexity.

That’s the case with the smartphone-based fluorescence microscopy discussed in this issue. The multimodal device is far from a child’s toy. It combines bright-field and dual-color fluorescence microscopy, and makes use of a plasmonic enhancement to boost signal intensity. This smartphone microscope holds out the promise of saving lives by providing simple, cost-effective screening for cancer mutations in resource-poor settings. “Smartphone Fluorescence Microscopy Allows Cost-Effective Molecular Diagnostics,” by Qingshan Wei of North Carolina State University and Aydogan Ozcan of UCLA (read article). 

Elsewhere in this issue:

• Our cover story addresses the decades-long quest for a noninvasive way to measure blood glucose. Spectroscopy is high on the list of technologies that can achieve this goal — and provide monitoring that is both pain-free and continuous. But the prize remains out of reach. In “Spectroscopy and the Holy Grail,” we asked three experts about the advantages the technology presents and the obstacles it faces (read article). 

• Recent advancements in tunable filter elements combined with increased computational power have resulted in an imager that can capture a full hyperspectral data cube and distill the information in less than five seconds. The new device also comes at a more affordable price point than typical imagers. Hod Finkelstein, Ron R. Nissim and Mark J. Hsu of TruTag Technologies explain how it works in “Intelligent Hyperspectral Imaging Holds Promise for Pathology,” (read article).

• Senior Editor Justine Murphy surveys the astounding growth of laser technology for dermatology. New applications range from lasers for the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer to treatments for blemishes, wrinkles and the removal of tattoos. “In Dermatology, Lasers Offer Options for Medical and Cosmetic Procedures” (read article).

• In Biopinion, David Bell of the Global Good Fund outlines steps to improve the development of diagnostic devices for use in resource-poor settings. His recommendations range from changing the way research is funded to forging closer ties to clinicians in the field. Don’t miss his essay, “International health needs a new approach,” (read article).

Enjoy the issue.

Jul/Aug 2017
EditorialMarcia StamellBiophotonics

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