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Sensors Actuators B Chem 2012 Aug-Sep;171-2:141-7

Image stacking approach to increase sensitivity of fluorescence detection using a low cost complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) webcam

Balsam J, Bruck HA, Kostov Y, Rasooly A


Optical technologies are important for biological analysis. Current biomedical optical analyses rely on high-cost, high-sensitivity optical detectors such as photomultipliers, avalanched photodiodes or cooled CCD cameras. In contrast, Webcams, mobile phones and other popular consumer electronics use lower-sensitivity, lower-cost optical components such as photodiodes or CMOS sensors. In order for consumer electronics devices, such as webcams, to be useful for biomedical analysis, they must have increased sensitivity. We combined two strategies to increase the sensitivity of CMOS-based fluorescence detector. 1. We captured hundreds of low sensitivity images using a Webcam in video mode, instead of a single image typically used in cooled CCD devices. 2. We then used a computational approach consisting of an image stacking algorithm to remove the noise by combining all of the images into a single image. While video mode is widely used for dynamic scene imaging (e.g. movies or time-lapse photography), it is not used to capture a single static image, which removes noise and increases sensitivity by more than thirty fold. The portable, battery-operated Webcam-based fluorometer system developed here consists of five modules: (1) a low cost CMOS Webcam to monitor light emission, (2) a plate to perform assays, (3) filters and multi-wavelength LED illuminator for fluorophore excitation, (4) a portable computer to acquire and analyze images. and (5) image stacking software for image enhancement. The samples consisted of various concentrations of fluorescein, ranging from 30 mu M to 1000 mu M. in a 36-well miniature plate. In the single frame mode, the fluorometer's limit-of-detection (LOD) for fluorescein is similar to 1000 mu M, which is relatively insensitive. However, when used in video mode combined with image stacking enhancement, the LOD is dramatically reduced to 30 mu M, sensitivity which is similar to that of state-of-the-art ELISA plate photomultiplier-based readers. Numerous medical diagnostics assays rely on optical and fluorescence readers. Our novel combination of detection technologies, which is new to biodetection may enable the development of new low cost optical detectors based on an inexpensive Webcam (<$10). It has the potential to form the basis for high sensitivity, low cost medical diagnostics in resource-poor settings.

Category: Journal Article
DOI: 10.1016/j.snb.2012.02.003
Includes FDA Authors from Scientific Area(s): Medical Devices
Entry Created: 2012-10-30