A “smart” petri dish developed by engineers at the California Institute of Technology (Pasadena, California, USA) incorporates a lens-free microscopy imaging platform that enables the continuous imaging of cell cultures without removing them from the petri dish. The platform could lead to a new generation of lab-on-a-chip tools, according to a Caltech press release.
Petri dishes are used to grow cells and identify bacterial infections. Cells are typically placed in an incubator to grow. The conventional way to study the sample is to remove it from the incubator and study it under a microscope. The new petri dish, called ePetri, allows for the tracking of cell culture or bacterial culture within the incubator.
The researchers built the prototype platform with a Google smart phone, a commercially available cell-phone image sensor and Lego building blocks. The culture is placed on the image-sensor chip. The smart phone’s LED screen is used as a scanning light source. The device is placed in an incubator with a wire running from the chip to a laptop outside the incubator. As the image sensor takes pictures of the culture, the information is sent to the computer. This allows researchers to acquire and save images of the cells as they are growing in real time.
Since samples don’t have to be removed from the incubator, the device could save time for researchers and could also reduce contamination risks, according to the press release.
Since it is a platform technology, it can be applied to other devices. It could provide microscopy-imaging capabilities for other portable diagnostic lab-on-a-chip tools. In could also be useful in various other areas, such as drug screening and basic research.Camilla Andersson