Device may help supply shortage of diagnostic equipment in developing countries.
In theory, a microscope is such a complicated piece of equipment that, at first, it seems impossible to manufacture one of them just by printing on a sheet of cardboard, and at the final cost of $ 1.20.
But that is exactly what made Indian bioengineer Manu Prakash of Stanford University in the United States - and his invention can save lives in developing countries where equipment is lacking to properly diagnose (and treat) disease.
Prakash's microscope parts, the Foldscope, are printed on cardboard. Then they are detached and assembled following a system of folding and fitting, as in an origami.
Foldscope also has parts like lenses, a small LED lamp and a battery similar to that used in watches. The microscope is assembled in seven minutes, and its total cost is $ 0.50.
Foldscope's battery runs for up to 50 hours, and the device lets you magnify an image up to 2,000 times. Prakash and his team created 12 different models, each designed to diagnose a specific disease. All come with a built-in projector so your images can be analyzed by multiple people at once.
Because it is printed, it can be manufactured on a large scale. Also, it is very sturdy. "You can wet it, step and jump on it, and throw it from the height of a three-story building," says Prakash.
The idea came from the scientist's and his students' travels to developing countries, where they were impressed by the lack of infrastructure to identify diseases such as malaria.
"In Kenya, there are not enough malaria drugs, but they are still distributed even though the disease has not been diagnosed," says Prakash.
In addition to waste, the indiscriminate use of drugs makes parasites that cause the disease immune to available treatments. Hence the importance of microscopes, which allow the identification of the presence of evil in patients.
In November, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded Prakash $ 100,000 to test Foldscope in India, Thailand and Uganda.
The scientist will now select 10,000 volunteers, including doctors, medical students, primary and secondary students and researchers, to test his invention.