Red blood cells - pocket microscope ioLight

Pocket microscope images malaria in red blood cells

Malaria remains a major problem across large areas of the world.  Yen Chin, Viola Introini and Prof Pietro Cicuta working on Biological and Soft Systems at the Cavendish Lab, Cambridge University are studying the mechanical properties of red blood cells by using optical tweezers to manipulate cells. One of the uses of this work is to study cells infected with malaria and investigate how the infection is passed from one red blood cell to another.

Whilst in Prof Cicuta’s lab, he suggested that we give the ioLight pocket microscope a really difficult  test and see if it can image a slides of malaria infected red blood cells that had just been produced for his research and was being used with conventional microscopes in his lab on the day ioLight visited.

For this test we used the standard ioLight microscope and its built-in illuminator below the sample. To increase the contrast in the image we raised the sample approx. 5mm. The whole test was done on a corner of a computer desk next to the keyboard – ie in the small space in which you normal use the mouse! – the iPad was either handheld, or rested in on the computer keyboard, so no bench space was required.

Red blood cells - pocket microscope ioLight

Red blood cells showing normal cells, and those with black areas which is evidence of maleria infection

Within just a couple of minutes the microscope produced the image above, which clearly shows the red blood cells, and differentiates normal red blood cells from those with an internal black area, which indicates that the cell has been infected with malaria.

This is a great demonstration of the 1µm resolution of the ioLight microscope and shows how good images can be obtained directly to a tablet or phone without the need for bench space!

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