Expansion mini-microscopy: An enabling alternative in point-of-care diagnostics

Yu Shrike Zhang, Grissel Trujillo-de Santiago, Mario Mois├ęs Alvarez, Steven J. Schiff, Edward S. Boyden*, Ali Khademhosseini* (2017) Expansion Mini-Microscopy: An Enabling Alternative in Point-of-Care Diagnostics, Current Opinion in Biomedical Engineering 1:45-53. (*, co-corresponding authors)

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Diagnostics play a significant role in health care. In the developing world and low-resource regions the utility for point-of-care (POC) diagnostics becomes even greater. This need has long been recognized, and diagnostic technology has seen tremendous progress with the development of portable instrumentation such as miniature imagers featuring low complexity and cost. However, such inexpensive devices have not been able to achieve a resolution sufficient for POC detection of pathogens at very small scales, such as single-cell parasites, bacteria, fungi, and viruses. To this end, expansion microscopy (ExM) is a recently developed technique that, by physically expanding preserved biological specimens through a chemical process, enables super-resolution imaging on conventional microscopes and improves imaging resolution of a given microscope without the need to modify the existing microscope hardware. Here we review recent advances in ExM and portable imagers, respectively, and discuss the rational combination of the two technologies, that we term expansion mini-microscopy (ExMM). In ExMM, the physical expansion of a biological sample followed by imaging on a mini-microscope achieves a resolution as high as that attainable by conventional high-end microscopes imaging non-expanded samples, at significant reduction in cost. We believe that this newly developed ExMM technique is likely to find widespread applications in POC diagnostics in resource-limited and remote regions by expanded-scale imaging of biological specimens that are otherwise not resolvable using low-cost imagers.


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