Stanford University PrakashLab Foldscope
Stanford University Prakash Lab
Foldscope is an ultra-low cost microscope made from common materials such as paper. It is designed to be produced affordably, to be durable, and to give optical quality similar to conventional research brightfield microscopes and in the future darkfield, fluorescence, polarization and projection microscopes. Foldscope’s functions are currently being optimized for disease-specific diagnostics. Other benefits include usage in medical education and general education on the role of unseen lifeforms in infectious diseases.
Southeast Asia and Africa, where research, prototyping field testing were initially conducted after years of work.
Foldscope is not yet commercially available. Foldscope is a project out of Prakash Lab, a research group in the Department of Bioengineering at Stanford University. The team is working to make the microscopes commercially available through a startup/spinoff.
As the Foldscope is not yet commercially available, no retail price has been specified. However, numerous articles cite the Foldscope as costing about 50 cents to 1 USD to manufacture, with the goal to distribute disease-detection instruments for little to no cost. According to the designers, Foldscope kits will be available in various forms: as individual kits or classroom kits, with different amounts of accessories included. All of this will be reflected in price, but large classroom kits (200 units) will cost one dollar per student.
Costly and bulky traditional microscopes and UC Berkeley Cellscope, which aims to offer mobile microscopy
Goal 3: to improve and promote good health.
Field diagnostics in resource-poor settings where instruments and traditional lab based testing facilities and human resources are unavailable, along with gaps in medical and general education on diseases.
Clinical work in diagnostics is currently being conducted for several diseases such as loa loa, malaria, schistosomiasis, african sleeping sickness, chagas disease.
As Foldscope is aimed at “democratizing science by developing scientific tools that can scale up to match problems in global health and science education, the creators of the Foldscope hope to create cheap and accessible solutions that everyone may interact with from researching adults in developing countries, all remote health workers to students in the city.”
Materials include folded paper, bead of glass, watch battery, light-emitting diode, and on/off switch, though final designs are still pending research and testing.
One of the unique design features of the microscope is the use of inexpensive microlenses instead of the precision-ground, curved, glass lenses used in traditional microscopes. These poppy-seed-sized lenses were originally mass-produced in various sizes as an abrasive grit that was thrown into industrial tumblers to knock the rough edges off metal parts. In the simplest configuration of the Foldscope, one 17-cent lens is press-fit into a small hole, call an aperture, in the center of the slide-mounting platform. Some of the more sophisticated versions have multiple lenses, including condenser lenses, doublet lenses and light filters.
Foldscope is patent-protected and listed under Stanford’s Office of Technology Licensing as Foldscope: Ultra low-cost fluorescence microscope constructed via folding.
Not currently supplied to the general public from the Prakash Lab team, beyond beta testers.
However, the assembly process and key components, along with detailed technical instructions, parts, and methods, are listed in this journal publication.
To receive a kit from the Prakash Lab, users had to be part of the original 10K microscope project beta testers group. Once these beta testers have received their kits and given feedback, the Prakash Lab intends to make these kits available to broader public as well.
Foldscopes designed for disease-specific diagnostics are still under development and undergoing clinical testing.
Foldscopes designed for general microscopy and education, however, have been distributed. According to the designers approximately 50,000 Foldscope units were distributed in 135 countries during pilot testing for educational applications.
Image sourced from original Foldscope journal publication (A) CAD layout of Foldscope paper components on an A4 sheet. (B) Schematic of an assembled Foldscope illustrating panning, and (C) cross-sectional view illustrating flexure-based focusing. (D) Foldscope components and tools used in the assembly, including Foldscope paper components, ball lens, button-cell battery, surface-mounted LED, switch, copper tape and polymeric filters. (E) Different modalities assembled from colored paper stock. (F) Novice users demonstrating the technique for using the Foldscope. (G) Demonstration of the field-rugged design, such as stomping under foot.
The goal is to make it easy to assemble and use the microscope, with users able to fold and construct the Foldscope in about 20 minutes. Currently, the device’s assembly is so simple that majority of the device may be printed and assembled at home . However, if Foldscope is released for disease diagnostics, this will likely require more manufacturer oversight.
The components for the original Foldscope are listed in its original publication, but replacement components for use and placement in the specific product may not be available based upon what changes will be necessary to apply the concept to disease diagnostics. One challenge cited is that the original paper construction may not stand the test of time in rural communities where dust and liquids may easily contaminate the device; thus, the design may need to be redeveloped for a device with a much longer life span.
Uncertain, though in the event that Foldscope is used to examine hazardous samples, would need to be disposed of after a single use.
Constraints set out by the Prakash Lab: durable, functional, inexpensive, lightweight, small, easy to use and replace, requires no external power, and examine specimens on a glass slide similar to traditional microscopes
Has already gone through years of research in the field, continuing to undergo clinical testing and international fieldwork in both diagnostics and education. Disease-specific Foldscope designs have gone through early bench-testing and yielded data, including high-magnification brightfield images of Giardia lamblia, Leishmania donovani, Trypanosoma cruzi (Chagas parasite), Escherichia coli, and Bacillus cereus, and low-magnification brightfield images of Schistosoma haematobium and Dirofilaria immitis.
In the future, darkfield and fluorescence Foldscopes will also be adapted for diagnostics, and sensitivity and specificity will be measured for various disease-specific Foldscopes in the field as clinical validations against existing diagnostic standards.
Mainly through the Prakash Lab’s research, along with collaborations with many clinical researchers and organizations.
Foldscope is easy-to-use and replace; however, as the disease diagnostic applications are not yet available, misuse or early attempts to use as disease diagnostic are hazardous. Please follow instructions and cautions as given.
Foldscope is designed as a “stand alone” instrument for educational applications. For clinical applications it can be coupled with a camera phone to record images and movies.. Embedding flat rare-earth magnets in paper provides means for magnetic self-alignment, allowing the Foldscope to be reversibly coupled to a conventional smartphone for image capture, for smartphone-based diagnostics, or for telemedicine.
[options list] Pending
Continuous, Recharging only (V, time required, battery life), Other
Cybulski, J., Clements, J., and Prakash, M. Foldscope: Origami based paper microscope. PLoS ONE, 2014. 9(6):e98781.
Ephraim, R.K, Duah, E., Cybulski, J.S., Prakash, M., D’Ambrosio, M.V., Fletcher, D.A.,.. & Bogoch, I., Diagnosis of Schistosomiasis haematobium infection with Mobile Phone-Mounted Foldscope and a Reversed-Lens Cellscope in Ghana. The American Journal of tropical medicine and hygiene, 2015. 14-0741.
Cybulski, J., Prakash, M. Project microscopy (under preparation).
More publications, presentations, and past talks listed on the lab website
None, though clinical research and testing is underway.
Bench testing materials and methods are described in the published paper – Cybulski, J., Clements, J., and Prakash, M. Foldscope: Origami based paper microscope. PLoS ONE, 2014. 9(6):e98781.
Additional clinical/field testing was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with a $100,000 grant to test Foldscope in Thailand, India, and Uganda.
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