ioLight wins grant to develop low-cost fluorescence microscope

ioLight is delighted to announce that today we have learnt that we have been awarded an Innovate UK grant to develop a Low-cost Fluorescence Microscope prototype and trial it with customers. The total project value is £88,994 which will be 70% funded by Innovate UK.

Fluorescence microscopes are used every day in biochemistry, medical research and drug discovery / development. They are used to detect fluorescent markers (beacons) that tag specific features or molecules that scientists want to look at. They allow researchers to look at molecules that would otherwise be too small to see and to watch processes in vivo by following the beacons through the animal.

The problem is that fluorescence microscopes are very expensive, starting from £15,000. This grant potentially allows ioLight to offer a product at a fraction of that price. Such a product could become an everyday utility for bio labs across the world, as well as being used extensively in education.

The image below was taken on ioLight’s proof of concept fluorescence microscope. It is the nematode C.elegans, which has been genetically engineered to produce yellow fluorescent protein (YFP) in its oesophagus. YFP fluoresces under ioLight’s blue illumination so that it looks green.

This grant will work with the crowd funding that ioLight is currently raising, by enabling us to bring forward the development of this valuable fluorescence microscope and thus ultimately launch a product years before it would have otherwise been possible. If you would like to see our investment pitch and potentially invest in this exciting opportunity please visit our page on Crowdcube’s web site – www.crowdcube.com/iolight

C.elegans nematode viewed with the ioLight proof of concept low cost fluorescence microscope

C.elegans nematode viewed with the ioLight proof of concept low cost fluorescence microscope

Portable Microscope for Fish Farming, Aquaculture & Aquariums

Parasites

Fish suffer from a number of parasites which cause disease. This is a particularly significant issue when there are large numbers of fish kept together, such as on salmon farms in Scotland, Ireland and Norway or tilapia farms in the USA and Far East. The farmers and vets routinely monitor the health of the fish both for the welfare of the fish and to maximise their commercial value – disease limits the growth and value of the fish.

In aquariums, ornamental fish also need to be checked for parasites – some Koi are worth tens of thousands of pounds each and the good health of the fish is greatly prized by the owners.

Microscopes

Microscopes are used to examine scrapes from the fish skin – the vet will look at the mucus and see if any harmful parasites are present, and then be able to treat the fish accordingly. These fish skin scrapes must be examined very soon after they are taken from the fish, so currently vets have to take large, heavy laboratory microscopes with them – this is inconvenient, and since these microscopes are not designed to be frequently transported, they are regularly damaged by vibration from transport and dirt from continually being disassembled and assembled.

In addition to looking for parasites, microscopes are used to monitor plankton and algae in the water – this is important to maintain correct nutrition and avoid certain toxic organisms.

The ioLight microscope is perfect for both of these tasks – it is small and light and has resolution of 1 micron which is sufficient for most fish health tasks. Furthermore the images are displayed on an iPhone or iPad so they are really easy to email to an expert for a second opinion. The ability to record video is also very useful since with some parasites the way they move is important to determining if they are harmful or not.

CEFAS and Fish Vet Group

Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aqaculture Science (CEFAS) and the Fish Vet Group (part of Benchmark Holdings) have both tested the ioLight portable microscope – below are some images taken using the new wider field of view ioLight microscope (2 mm field of view). This microscope is great for fish work, including for use with the Sedgewick Rafter type counting chambers to count the numbers of plankton etc in water samples.

You can invest in the ioLight microscope at www.crowdcube.com/iolight

Fish gills under ioLight portable microscope

Fish gills under ioLight portable microscope

 

Plakton in Sedgewick Rafter counting chamber. Taken with the ioLight portable microscope.

Plankton in Sedgewick Rafter counting chamber. Taken with the ioLight portable microscope.

ioLight microscope used to investigate animal parasites in lab

What are the effects of animal parasites?

All animals carry parasites, such as intestinal worms (or helminths). The parasites cause several diseases including gastritis and enteritis, which prevent the animal putting on weight. Some pathological parasites can even kill livestock.

The cost of parasites to farmers is large. The Animal Health drugs market is reported to be worth more than $7.5BN and many of these drugs are targeted on parasites. Companion animals, such as dogs and cats, are wormed regularly by their caring owners. However, parasites such as canine lungworm are killing increasing numbers of pets. This is why Bayer is using ioLight microscopes to promote Advocate®, which prevents infestation.

Reducing drug use

Governments worldwide are now introducing regulations to reduce the use of drugs in the food chain. Vets now have to diagnose intestinal parasites before treating farm animals. This is done by collecting a fecal sample from the back of the animal and sending it off to the lab for microscopic analysis to detect parasite eggs. This usually takes two days after which the vet returns to the farm to treat the animals if required. The ioLight microscope is highly portable and has a wipe clean surface (which is important to vets working behind animals). It is also less expensive than a lab microscope and produces images on a tablet that can easily be shared with the vet’s clients, building that crucial trust between vet and farmer.

Moredun

Moredun are one of the UK’s foremost labs working on animal parasites. They work with their member farmers and government to devise practical methods of controlling parasites. Moredun carry out standard faecal egg counts as described in a previous article; however they also study the life cycle of the parasites with the aim of increasing understanding to help to devise new methods of control.

Sheep nematodes have a fascinating life cycle – nematode eggs are laid inside sheep and leave the animal in the dung where they hatch into first stage larvae. They then shed their skin and become second stage larvae, remaining in the dung. Their skin is shed once more and they become third stage larvae at which point they leave the dung and move on to the grass where they are eaten by the sheep and the life cycle begins again.

Below is an image taken by Thomas Tzelos of Moredun using the ioLight field microscope. This image shows a sheep parasitic nematode, the brown stomach worm (aka Teladorsagia circumcincta, to give it it’s proper name!) The nematode is in the process of shedding its skin for the second time and becoming the infective third stage larvae.

Sheep nematode worm shedding its sheath. Taken with the ioLight field microscope

Sheep nematode worm shedding its sheath. Taken with the ioLight field microscope

The ioLight microscope provides a really convenient and easy to use way of imaging these larvae in the lab without all the complexity and cost of a conventional microscope.

ioLight portable microscope used in cancer research

Cancer Research at Birmingham University

Birmingham University is ranked third in the UK for biosciences and has many great research projects including the cancer research of Dr Farhat Khanim with Prof Chris bunce. Yesterday at the School of Bioscience, Dr Khanim tested the ioLight portable microscope for use in her work trialling potential cancer therapies in a project called The Centre for Accelerated Drug Redeployment.

ioLight portable microscope used in cancer research

Dr Khanim using the ioLight pocket microscope

The clinics in which Dr Khanim is running tests are in remote places, don’t have lab facilities and are staffed by less experienced people. Conventional lab microscopes are too large, fragile and difficult to use in this situation. Portable microscopes are ideal for this work because they solve these issues. Other portable microscopes lack the image quality (resolution) to see inside the cancer cells, and many lack internet connectivity to automatically upload the images to the cloud. This feature allows researchers in Birmingham to immediately examine the images taken in the remote clinics. ioLight’s field micoscope is the perfect solution for Dr Khanim’s work because of the image quality (1 micron resolution) and internet connectivity.

Why is image quality is so important in Dr Khanim’s work?

All cells in our bodies go through a life cycle:  growth – specialise to perform a function – carry out that function – die. It is very important that the cells die, otherwise the body quickly becomes unhealthy. Cancer cells cause harm because they start to grow but then don’t specialise and so don’t  go on to die, but instead keep growing causing a wide range of problems – this is the basic feature of all cancers. Dr Khanim’s research uses the microscope to look at the cancer cells and then exposes the cells to different potential drugs to see if these drugs can induce the process of differentiation in the cell. If the differentiation process can be started, then the cells will ultimately die and so help to ‘heal’ the cancer. The onset of the differentiation process is signified by a change in shape of the cell nucleus – a growing cancer cell has a smooth, round nucleus, but when the cell is stimulated to differentiate by the drugs, the nucleus develops lobes and loses its circular shape.

Using the ioLight microscope, Dr Khanim took the image below of leukaemia cells and you can clearly see that some of the cells have started the differentiation process because the nucleus is starting to develop lobes – this clearly shows that ioLight’s portable microscope is suitable for use in cancer research.

Leukemia cells viewed with the ioLight portable microscope

Leukemia cells viewed with the ioLight portable microscope

You can invest in ioLight at www.crowdcube.com/iolight

ioLight launches new pocket microscope with wider field of view

Please support our crowdfunding campaign at www.crowdcube.com/iolight

ioLight pocket microscope with wide field of view

ioLight are pleased to announce the availability of a new version of the portable microscope to complement the original version. The original pocket microscope has a field of view (width of the area viewed by the microscope) of 1 mm, and resolution of 1 micron. This delivers superb quality images to an iPhone or iPad but still folds flat to fit in your jacket pocket, and will remain available for those who need the best resolution.

For some applications including animal and fish parasites, cell culture, electronic component inspection, the objects being viewed are larger than 1 mm, so a larger field of view is required.

To address this need, ioLight have developed a version of the portable microscope which doubles the field of view of to 2 mm. This change also has the advantage of extending the distance from the lens to the object (working distance) but reducing the resolution to approximately 2 microns.

The photo below shows 2 images of a pond water larvae – the left-hand image is taken with the original ioLight microscope with 1 mm field of view and 1 micron resolution, and the right-hand image shows the same larvae imaged with the new 2 mm field of view, 2 micron resolution version. The right-hand image clearly shows how more of the larvae is visible, thus making it easier to identify the larger parasites. The images in this post have been compressed for easy viewing on-line.

Images comparing the standard ioLight pocket microscope with the new wide field of view version

This new microscope looks the same as the original product, but has ‘F.O.V. 2mm’ engraved on the end of the mast to distinguish it from the original version. Other features, such as the 2 illuminators, glass sample stage, rechargeable Li-ion battery and operation with iPhone or iPad remain the same.

If you would like to buy a wide field of view version of the ioLight microscope, please contact us.  You can get a wide field of view version as a reward for investing in our Crowdfunding campaign – www.crowdcube.com/ioLight

 

The science – Why does increasing the field of view decrease the resolution?

There is some fundamental science behind this. The ioLight pocket microscope captures 5 mega pixel (MP) images which are 2592 x 1944 pixels. To achieve 1 micron resolution each pixel must represent less than 0.5 microns on the object – this requirement is set by Nyquist’s theorem. With an image from an ioLight microscope 2592 pixels wide and a field of view of 1 mm, each pixel equates to approximately 0.4 microns.

In the new version the image is still 5MP and 2592 pixels wide, so with the 2 mm field of view this means each pixel represents approx. 0.8 microns, and so Nyquist’s theorem tell us that the resolution is limited to a little better than 2 microns.

Using Nyquist’s theorem applied to the camera chip like this only tells us what the minimum resolution is – for this resolution to be achieved in practice, the performance of the lens and illuminator has to be such that it also deliver an image with the required resolution. ioLight have carefully matched the lens and illuminator to the camera chip and resolution, such that the minimum resolution predicted by Nyquist’s theorem is achieved for most samples.