A paper microscope that costs only 50 cents can detect malaria from just a drop of blood - and it could revolutionize medicine
Prakash, an assistant professor of bioengineering at Stanford, is the proprietor of "frugal science," a term he coined to explain the movement toward building cheap versions of high tech tools. His endeavor aims to make medical devices both affordable and available to the masses.The way Prakash sees it, labs don't need the most expensive equipment out there in order to reach profound breakthroughs. "Today people look at these extraordinary labs and forget that in the 1800s they could still do the exact same science," he told The New York Times.Advertisement
So in 2014 he created a paper microscope, aptly named the Foldscope, that costs only 50 cents to produce.
Though microscopes might seem like a mundane piece of equipment, they remain an integral part of detecting disease and analyzing blood samples. Yet despite their necessity, they're expensive. A quality microscope can cost hundreds of dollars, plus even more to keep it maintained.For labs in developing countries, these costs often lie outside their meager budgets. Even for labs that can afford the luxury of a high-powered microscope, properly trained technicians come at a steep price as well.
While the generic Foldscope serves as a one-size-fits-all microscope, Prakash and his team have also developed specialized versions, such as a malaria-centric one, that make identifying diseases even easier.
More than just helping combat disease, Prakash also hopes his "frugal science" movement will make science education and research accessible across the globe.
Prakash keeps an unusual map in his room to remind him of his mission. On it, Africa is almost nonexistent, India is tiny, and China's only a little larger. The map bases the size of each country on the amount of scientific research it produces, The New York Times reported. It serves as a daily reminder to Prakash of the inequality many countries face when it comes to resources and technology.And with that kind of motivation and ingenuity, there's no telling how far Prakash and frugal science can reach.Advertisement
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