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New technology for examining the mouth and skin at home using a smartphone camera


Researchers have managed to develop an innovative technology that allows assessing the health of the skin and mouth at home using a smartphone camera and determining whether a visit to the doctor is needed or not.

The research team from the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Washington, USA, devised a method that uses images from smartphones to visually identify potentially harmful bacteria that build up on the surface of the skin and cause acne and slow wound healing.

Bacteria that appear in the oral cavity can also be seen and can cause gingivitis, plaque, and tooth decay, according to the University of Washington website.

The researchers used smartphone case modification with image processing methods to illuminate the bacteria in images taken by a traditional smartphone camera.

Ruikang Wang, the study's lead author said, it is not easy to see bacteria using traditional smartphone images, as smartphone cameras work with the RGB calibration sensor. Because of the widespread use of smartphones, we wanted to develop an effective, low-cost program that would be an easy tool for people to use to identify bacteria on the skin and in the oral cavity.

To develop the new technology, the researchers conducted a process of directing all the different wavelengths of light in the visible spectrum into three different colors, namely “red, green, and blue, where each pixel in an image was created by a smartphone with a mixture of these colors.

The research team enhanced the capabilities of the smartphone camera through a small 3D printed ring; Due to the emission of many colors beyond red, green, and blue from bacteria, the smartphone camera misses.

And that ring contains 10 black “LED” lights around the camera hole in the smartphone case, to take pictures from the oral cavity and on the surface of the skin. LED lights excite a class of bacteria-derived particles called porphyrins, causing the release of a red fluorescent signal that a smartphone camera can pick up.

Other components in the image, such as proteins or oil molecules produced by the body, skin, and teeth, will not glow red under LED lights, as they will glow in other colors. Thanks to the illumination of LED lights, the research team was able to obtain enough optical information to computer-convert RGB colors from images derived from a smartphone to other wavelengths in the optical spectrum.

This results in an image made up of 15 different sections of the visible spectrum, instead of the three colors in the original RGB image. The image analysis method can be modified to detect other bacterial species that glow under LED lights. The success of this preliminary study could form the basis for new and rapid home methods for assessing skin and oral health, and providing users with information about whether they need to see a dentist, for example, or consult a dermatologist about certain types of skin conditions.

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