It was not so long ago that sequencing even tiny snippets of DNA was a costly, cumbersome process that required access to a state-the-art lab. Today, we are inching close to putting a DNA sequencer in every pocket.
This week, a team of researchers from UCLA and Sweden announced that they have built a microscope that uses the camera in a smartphone to detect the fluorescent products of DNA sequencing reactions in cells and tissues. What that means is that a doctor could plug the mobile-optimized microscope into a smartphone and perform targeted DNA sequencing and molecular analysis on things like tumors, in places that lack well-equipped medical labs and hospitals. The new tool, in theory, could allow doctors to perform high-end cancer diagnostics just about anywhere. Yes, we know, this sounds a lot like Star Trek’s Tricorder.