Add-on clip turns smartphone into fully operational microscope

19 February 2018:

Australian researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP) have developed a 3D printable ‘clip-on’ that can turn any smartphone into a fully functional microscope.

Reported in the research journal ‘Scientific Reports’, the smartphone microscope is powerful enough to visualise specimens as small as 1/200th of a millimetre, including microscopic organisms, animal and plant cells, blood cells, cell nuclei and more.

The clip-on technology is unique in that it requires no external power or light source to work yet offers high-powered microscopic performance in a robust and mobile handheld package.

And the researchers are making the technology freely available, sharing the 3D printing files publicly so anyone – from scientists to the scientifically curious – can turn their own smartphones into microscopes.

Lead developer and CNBP Research Fellow at RMIT University, Dr Antony Orth (pictured), believes the technology has immense potential as a scientific tool, one that is ideal for use in remote areas and for field-work where larger standalone microscopes are unavailable or impractical.

“We’ve designed a simple mobile phone microscope that takes advantage of the integrated illumination available with nearly all smartphone cameras,” says Dr Orth.

The clip-on has been engineered with internal illumination tunnels that guide light from the camera flash to illuminate the sample from behind. This overcomes issues seen with other microscopy-enabled mobile phone devices says Dr Orth.

“Almost all other phone-based microscopes use externally powered light sources while there’s a perfectly good flash on the phone itself,” he explains. “External LEDs and power sources can make these other systems surprisingly complex, bulky and difficult to assemble.”

“The beauty of our design is that the microscope is useable after one simple assembly step and requires no additional illumination optics, reducing significantly the cost and complexity of assembly. The clip-on is also able to be 3D printed making the device accessible to anyone with basic 3D printing capabilities.”

A further advantage noted by Dr Orth is that the clip-on enables both bright-field and dark-field microscopy techniques to be undertaken. Bright-field microscopy is where a specimen is observed on a bright background. Conversely, dark-field shows the specimen illuminated on a dark background.

“The added dark-field functionality lets us observe samples that are nearly invisible under conventional bright-field operation such as cells in media,” he says. “Having both capabilities in such a small device is extremely beneficial and increases the range of activity that the microscope can be successfully used for.”

Dr Orth believes the potential applications for the smartphone microscope are enormous.

“Our mobile microscope can be used as an inexpensive and portable tool for all types of on-site or remote area monitoring.”

“Water quality, blood samples, environmental observation, early disease detection and diagnosis—these are all areas where our technology can be easily used to good effect.”

Dr Orth sees significant benefit in developing countries for the device.

“Powerful microscopes can be few and far between in some regions,” says Dr Orth. “They’re often only found in larger population centres and not in remote or smaller communities. Yet their use in these areas can be essential—for determining water quality for drinking, through to analysing blood samples for parasites, or for disease diagnosis including malaria.”

To ensure that this technology can be utilised the world over, the files for the 3D printing of the microscope clip-on are being made freely available. They are available for download at the CNBP web site – http://cnbp.org.au/online-tools.

“Ideally, a phone microscope should take advantage of the integrated flash found in nearly every modern mobile, avoiding the need for external lighting and power. It should also be as compact and easy to assemble as possible. It is this design philosophy that inspired us in the development of this add-on clip,” says Dr Orth.

The new phone microscope has already been tested by Dr Orth and his CNBP colleagues in a number of areas, successfully visualizing samples ranging from cell culture, to zooplankton to live cattle semen in support of livestock fertility testing.

Below: Cells being viewed by an add-on clip that turns a smartphone into a fully operational microscope.

Goldys on ‘Key Thinkers’ panel

8 February 2018:

The ability to develop a holistic and interdisciplinary vision was raised as a key attribute and skill by CNBP Deputy Director Prof Ewa Goldys at today’s ‘Key Thinkers – Key Concepts – Scholarly Gaze’ panel discussion, coordinated by the Faculty of Human Sciences, based at Macquarie University.

The event, consisting of prominent scientific speakers across differing disciplines, looked to better define the process of ‘seeing’ and ‘observation’ within the higher education research environment. Discussed were the use of technologies and techniques to help support advanced scientific theory development as well as best-practice methodology and laboratory experimentation.

Goldys, Professor at UNSW and Adjunct Professor at Macquarie University noted the advantages of having alternate vantage points and expertise from differing disciplines in her imaging, visualisation and cell colour research at the CNBP.

“It is the ability to bring together multiple disciplines and areas  – such as physics, chemistry, biology, medicine and materials science – that allows for the big science and health questions to be explored and then answered,” she said.

Below – Prof Ewa Goldys discussing the way in which she has successfully combined computer analysis with microscopy, to extract highly detailed cellular information that can help distinguish between healthy and diseased cells.

Detonation nanodiamonds to aid bioimaging

6 February 2018:

Tiny 5 nm detonation nanodiamonds glow in different colors and their fluorescence is pH dependent, reports a new paper by CNBP scientists published today in the Nature journal Scientific Reports.

Lead author of the paper Dr Philipp Reineck from RMIT University (Former CNBP Research Fellow and current CNBP Associate Investigator) notes that the research is particulalry exciting as the fluorescence lifetime of the detonation nanodiamonds makes fluorescence lifetime imaging (FLIM) for bioimaging applications feasible.

Journal: Scientific Reports.

Publication title: Visible to near-IR fluorescence from single-digit detonation nanodiamonds: excitation wavelength and pH dependence.

Authors: Philipp Reineck, Desmond W. M. Lau, Emma R. Wilson, Nicholas Nunn, Olga A. Shenderova & Brant C. Gibson.

Abstract: Detonation nanodiamonds are of vital significance to many areas of science and technology. However, their fluorescence properties have rarely been explored for applications and remain poorly understood. We demonstrate significant fluorescence from the visible to near-infrared spectral regions from deaggregated, single-digit detonation nanodiamonds dispersed in water produced via post-synthesis oxidation. The excitation wavelength dependence of this fluorescence is analyzed in the spectral region from 400 nm to 700 nm as well as the particles’ absorption characteristics. We report a strong pH dependence of the fluorescence and compare our results to the pH dependent fluorescence of aromatic hydrocarbons. Our results significantly contribute to the current understanding of the fluorescence of carbon-based nanomaterials in general and detonation nanodiamonds in particular.

Sameera Iqbal awarded poster prize

2 February 2018:

Sameera Iqbal, CNBP PhD student at Macquarie University has been awarded a certificate and cash prize for her poster presentation at the Australasian Glycoscience Symposium at the Lorne Proteomics Conference, 2 Feb, 2018.

Her poster detailed the following work –

‘PolySialic Acid (PolySia) is an α2-8-linked sialic acid chain present on cell surfaces in embryonic brains. Changes in polysialylation pattern are reported to be associated with immune defense and inflammation in the CNS. Opioids such as Morphine-3-Glucuronide (M3G) (metabolite of morphine) activates neuroinflammation in a manner parallel to Lipopolysaccharide (LPS), compromising opioid-induced analgesia. In this study, morphine (Morphine-3-glucuronide) was hypothesized to affect the polySia expression in neurons and astrocyte cell lines. It was observed that PolySia expression was significantly increased in neurons following LPS and M3G stimulation.’

Well done Sameera!

Diabetes and early pregnancy

1 February 2018:

CNBP and Robinson Research Institute researcher Dr Hannah Brown, University of Adelaide is lead author on a newly published paper that looks to understand why pregnancy failure and pregnancy loss occurs in women with diabetes. The paper was published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports.

Publication titlePericonception onset diabetes is associated with embryopathy and fetal growth retardation, reproductive tract hyperglycosylation and impaired immune adaptation to pregnancy.

Authors: Hannah M. Brown, Ella S. Green, Tiffany C. Y. Tan, Macarena B. Gonzalez, Alice R. Rumbold, M. Louise Hull, Robert J. Norman, Nicolle H. Packer, Sarah A. Robertson & Jeremy G. Thompson.

Abstract: Diabetes has been linked with impaired fertility but the underlying mechanisms are not well defined. Here we use a streptozotocin-induced diabetes mouse model to investigate the cellular and biochemical changes in conceptus and maternal tissues that accompany hyperglycaemia. We report that streptozotocin treatment before conception induces profound intra-cellular protein β-O-glycosylation (O-GlcNAc) in the oviduct and uterine epithelium, prominent in early pregnancy. Diabetic mice have impaired blastocyst development and reduced embryo implantation rates, and delayed mid-gestation growth and development. Peri-conception changes are accompanied by increased expression of pro-inflammatory cytokine Trail, and a trend towards increased Il1a, Tnf and Ifng in the uterus, and changes in local T-cell dynamics that skew the adaptive immune response to pregnancy, resulting in 60% fewer anti-inflammatory regulatory T-cells within the uterus-draining lymph nodes. Activation of the heat shock chaperones, a mechanism for stress deflection, was evident in the reproductive tract. Additionally, we show that the embryo exhibits elevated hyper-O-GlcNAcylation of both cytoplasmic and nuclear proteins, associated with activation of DNA damage (ɣH2AX) pathways. These results advance understanding of the impact of peri-conception diabetes, and provide a foundation for designing interventions to support healthy conception without propagation of disease legacy to offspring.

New Centre postdoc at Adelaide

31 January 2018:

CNBP welcomes its newest researcher to the team, Dr Thomas Avery who is based at the University of Adelaide.

Thomas was awarded a PhD in chemistry by The University of Adelaide in 2002 and completed post-doctoral positions at The University of Oxford (England) with Dr David Hodgson and The University of Adelaide with Dr Dennis Taylor. During his post-doctoral tenures, he developed a strong publication record in leading organic chemistry journals typically focused on probing the scope, mechanism and application of novel chemical reactions.

Transitioning to industry in 2008, Thomas contributed to new drug development for Adelaide based company Bionomics Ltd, as a Senior Research Scientist in the chemistry division. Bionomics provided him the opportunity to work on a diverse set of projects developing drug candidates in cancer therapeutics and for CNS indications. Most notably, he was chemistry lead for the program that led to the cognition/Alzheimer’s disease collaboration with Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD) and more recently the pain collaboration, also partnered with MSD.

Thomas has now returned to an academic research role as a CNBP Research Fellow in Professor Andrew Abell’s group.

Building on his medicinal chemistry background he will work on projects to create potential medicaments and biosensors within the Centre. More specifically, his first project is to create Bortezomib-like proteasome inhibitors with improved selectivity and targeted mode of action employing photo-switchable moieties.

A big welcome to the CNBP team Thomas!

Prof Ewa Goldys recognised as SPIE Fellow

30 January 2018:

Today Professor Ewa Goldys, Professor at the Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering at UNSW and Deputy Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP), was recognised as a Fellow of SPIE.

Fellows are SPIE Members of distinction who have made significant scientific and technical contributions in the multidisciplinary fields of optics, photonics, and imaging.

Professor Goldys was honoured by the recognition with the Fellowship citation noting her “achievements in optical characterisation of nanomaterials, biochemical and medical sensing.”

“I see this award as a mark of acknowledgement of the Australian standing in the international biophotonics community. I am very proud of my new role in SPIE. As a Society, SPIE plays such a pivotal role in the development of biophotonics and its translation to industry,” she said.

SPIE is an international society advancing an interdisciplinary approach to the science and application of light.

Founded in 1955 this professional organisation promotes information exchange though conferences and publications, supports continuing education, career development, and engages in advocacy.

Below – Prof Ewa Goldys at the Fellows reception.

Magnetically sensitive optical fibre demonstrated

19 January 2018:

A new paper featuring CNBP researchers demonstrates magnetically sensitive nanodiamond-doped tellurite glass fibres. This work is a first step towards magneto-sensitive fibre devices which could be used in medical magneto-endoscopy and remote mineral exploration sensing. First author of the paper is CNBP AI, Dr Yinlan Ruan from the University of Adelaide.

Journal: Scientific Reports.

Publication titleMagnetically sensitive nanodiamond-doped tellurite glass fibers.

Authors: Yinlan Ruan, David A. Simpson, Jan Jeske, Heike Ebendorff-Heidepriem, Desmond W. M. Lau, Hong Ji, Brett C. Johnson, Takeshi Ohshima, Shahraam Afshar V., Lloyd Hollenberg, Andrew D. Greentree, Tanya M. Monro & Brant C. Gibson.

Abstract: Traditional optical fibers are insensitive to magnetic fields, however many applications would benefit from fiber-based magnetometry devices. In this work, we demonstrate a magnetically sensitive optical fiber by doping nanodiamonds containing nitrogen vacancy centers into tellurite glass fibers. The fabrication process provides a robust and isolated sensing platform as the magnetic sensors are fixed in the tellurite glass matrix. Using optically detected magnetic resonance from the doped nanodiamonds, we demonstrate detection of local magnetic fields via side excitation and longitudinal collection. This is a first step towards intrinsically magneto-sensitive fiber devices with future applications in medical magneto-endoscopy and remote mineral exploration sensing.

New CNBP student at Macquarie

11 January 2018:

CNBP is happy to announce its newest student – Mina Ghanimi Fard. Mina is undertaking a Master of Research in Molecular Sciences at Macquarie University and is based in the Department of Chemistry and Biomolecular Sciences.

Supervised by CNBP’s Dr Lindsay Parker, her project title is ‘Targeting Sugar Receptors with Bio-conjugated Nanodiamonds in a 3D Model of Human Brain Cancer.’

Mina has a Bachelor Degree  of General Biology from Azad University in Iran and a Master of Managerial Psychology from HELP University in Malaysia.

Areas of interest include biotechnology in general and also cancer related research; fluorescent nanodiamonds and microscope imaging; CRISPER and synthetic biology or anything related to gene modification.

Welcome to the CNBP team Mina!