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24th August 2014

The 50 cent microscope that folds like origami

A new take on the microscope is making waves on the global health scene, promising to speed diagnoses of conditions in areas where it can now take weeks or even months.

Remember those origami books you had as a kid? Where you punch out the parts of the paper and fold them up and down till you get a jet? Exact same concept. But this is a microscope.

Bioengineer and founder of Stanford Univerisity’s Prakash Lab, Manu Prakash  is on a mission to bring change to health technology in the developing world. Prakash’s “print-and-fold” paper microscope or foldscope, as you’ll see it referenced across the web,won a $100,000 grant from the Gates Foundaton in 2012.He’s also caught the attention of the White House, who profiled him as a leading “immigrant maker” of medtech that’s making a difference to populations across the world.

“Why do people in the developing world today need to wait weeks or even months to find out what’s making them sick?”

Let’s think global diseases: Malaria, Chagas, or TB. They claim the lives of millions and affect over a billion globally, a great majority living in developing countries and often take long to diagnose, simply because microscopes which can test and diagnose diseases are not fit for the field. They’re expensive, they’re complicated, and they’re very delicate. And then there’s the foldscope:

The foldscope does not necessarily perform better than a traditional microscope but it’s cheap, super durable, easy to use, and completely functional. Take a minute to see the foldscope in action during  Prakash’s TED talk in Edinburgh where he wonders aloud “why people in the developing world today need to wait weeks or even months to find out what’s making them sick?” Also check out the Prakash Lab blog for the latest news on the 10,000 people recruited to test the foldscope across the world.


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Photo credit: TED talks