These Cancer Cells Were Spotted With a DSLR

This is an image of a tissue sample that doctors could use to detect cancerous cells. It's crisp, it's clear, it could save a life. And it was taken with a $400 Olympus E-330.

Using a consumer-grade camera for diagnostic imaging is a pretty amazing feat, announced just today by biomedical engineers from Rice University. And the process is one that could be replicated easily enough all over the world:

The team captured images of cells with a small bundle of fiber-optic cables attached to a $400 Olympus E-330 camera. When imaging tissues, Richards-Kortum's team applied a common fluorescent dye that caused cell nuclei in the samples to glow brightly when lighted with the tip of the fiber-optic bundle.

Cancerous and pre-cancerous cells are generally deformed enough that they can be spotted even on the camera's LCD screen.

The next step: writing software that would help general practitioners identify malignant cells without having to be trained pathologists.

What makes the research so amazing is that it's so replicable and affordable. Your next doctor's visit probably won't involve a digital camera—if it does, creepy!—but anything that makes diagnostic imaging easier for developing countries has the potential to save countless lives. That's something to be excited about. [Rice University via Futurity]