Cellular Diagnostics

A researcher from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has developed a process to transmit medical images via cellular phones. The development has the potential to provide sophisticated radiological diagnosis and treatment to the majority of the world’s population, who currently do not have access to such technology.
Boris Rubinsky (Credit: UC Berkeley)
Boris Rubinsky
(Credit: UC Berkeley)

Millions of people living in developing countries and in rural areas of developed countries tend to be distant from modern medical centers, and therefore cannot receive proper medical treatment. According to the World Health Organization, some three-quarters of the world’s population have no access to ultrasounds, X-rays, magnetic resonance images, and other medical imaging technology used for a wide range of applications, from detecting tumors to confirming signs of active tuberculosis infections. Professor Boris Rubinsky from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has developed a new system that might replace the traditional medical imaging methods, solving these problems and offering faster and easier diagnosis in the field.

The medical imaging systems in use today are expensive devices, which demand sensitive handling and maintenance. Furthermore, they usually require extensive user training. In contrast, the new medical imaging system developed by Rubinsky consists of two independent components that are connected through cellular phone technology and which can be developed with various medical imaging modalities.
With the new technology, a simple, independent data acquisition device (DAD), with limited controls and no image display, will be situated at a remote patient site. This DAD will be connected via cellular phone technology with a multi-server unit situated at a central site (which can be anywhere in the world). The server is capable of advanced image reconstruction and hardware control. Using the cellular communications, unprocessed raw data from the patient’s site will be transmitted to the cutting-edge central facility, and after processing, wil be returned to the cellular phone in the form of an image which can be displayed on the mobile phone’s screen. Although rural areas usually suffer from lack of sophisticated equipment, cell phone communication networks are quite common: it is estimated that more than 60 percent of all cell phones currently in use are in developing countries.
Cellular Diagnostics
Cellular Diagnostics
(Credit: Boris Rubinsky,
UC Berkeley)

The researchers chose Electrical Impedance Tomography (EIT), which demonstrates the feasibility of using cell phones in medical imaging. EIT is based on the principle that diseased tissue transmits electrical currents differently from healthy tissue. The difference in resistance from electrical currents is translated into an image, which can be transmitted via cell phone technology.

Utilizing commercially available parts, the research team built a simple data acquisition device for the experiment. The device had 32 stainless steel electrodes – half to introduce the electrical current and the other half to measure the voltage – connected to a gel-filled container that simulated breast tissue with a tumor. During the performed test, a total of 225 voltage measurements were taken and uploaded to a cell phone; it was then used to connect to a powerful central computer for processing an image which was sent back to the cell phone.
“Imaging is considered one of the most important achievements in modern medicine. Diagnosis and treatment of an estimated 20 percent of diseases would benefit from medical imaging, yet this advancement has been out of reach for millions of people in the world because the equipment is too costly to maintain. Our system would make imaging technology inexpensive and accessible for these underserved populations,” said Rubinsky. The invention is jointly patented and owned by Yissum, the Hebrew University’s Technology Transfer Company, and by the University of California, Berkeley. Commercialization efforts will be made by Yissum and by Berkeley’s technology transfer organization.
TFOT also covered the CellScope, a microscope cell phone designed to assist patients in medically-deprived areas, and the 9.4 Tesla, the world’s strongest MRI. Other cell phone related TFOT stories include TechFaith Dual Mode Mobile Phone, which is a pocket PC phone which enables the usage of two SIM cards at the same time, and the Haptic SPH-W4200 ‘iPhone Killer’. You can also read about Reverse Phone Lookups which can help users prevent unwanted calls.
More information on the new imaging system can be found in the Hebrew University’s press release.

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