Friday, May 8, 2015

Molecular tumor diagnosis with a smartphone

A device developed by MGH investigators may bring rapid, accurate molecular diagnosis of tumors and other diseases to locations lacking the latest medical technology. In their report appearing last month in PNAS Early Edition, the researchers describe a smartphone-based device that uses the same technology used to make holograms to collect microscopic images for digital analysis of the molecular composition of cells and tissues.

“The global burden of cancer, limited access to prompt pathology services in many regions and emerging cell profiling technologies increase the need for low-cost, portable and rapid diagnostic approaches that can be delivered at the point of care,” says Cesar Castro, MD, of the MGH Cancer Center and Center for Systems Biology, co-lead author of the report. “The emerging genomic and biological data for various cancers, which can be essential to choosing the most appropriate therapy, supports the need for molecular profiling strategies that are more accessible to providers, clinical investigators and patients. And we believe the platform we have developed provides essential features at an extraordinarily low cost.”

The device the team has developed – called the D3 (digital diffraction diagnosis) system – features an imaging module with a battery-powered LED light clipped onto a standard smartphone that records high-resolution imaging data with its camera. With a much greater field of view than traditional microscopy, the D3 system is capable of recording data on more than 100,000 cells from a blood or tissue sample in a single image. The data can then be transmitted for analysis to a remote graphic-processing server via a secure, encrypted cloud service, and the results rapidly returned to the point of care.

“We expect that the D3 platform will enhance the breadth and depth of cancer screening in a way that is feasible and sustainable for resource limited-settings,” says Ralph Weissleder, MD, PhD, director of the MGH Center for Systems Biology and co-senior author of the paper. “By taking advantage of the increased penetration of mobile phone technology worldwide, the system should allow the prompt triaging of suspicious or high-risk cases that could help to offset delays caused by limited pathology services in those regions and reduce the need for patients to return for follow-up care, which is often challenging for them.”

Hakho Lee, PhD, of the MGH-CSB is co-senior author of the report, and research fellow Hyungsoon Im, PhD, is co-lead author.

Back to Top