Could holograms help bring the end of malaria? Experts build new tool

flashing light mosquitoes malaria tiger mosquito
Mosquitos are the world’s most deadly animal, according to the World Health Organization, making these insects more than mere pests for some 500 million people every year. Their bites may be irritating but the diseases they carry can be fatal. Of all the illnesses mosquitos transmit, malaria is by far the most offensive, causing the deaths of as many as 2.7 million people annually.

Detecting malaria is pretty straightforward in western medicine. “Currently, the gold standard technique to diagnose malaria is manual microscopic evaluation of stained blood smears by expert microscopists who are in short supply in low-resources settings,” Duke University Professor of Biomedical Engineering Adam Wax told Digital Trends. In other words, well-trained practitioners have to spend a lot of time looking through microscopes.

But experts are in short supply, especially in impoverished regions where malaria hits hardest, so the team of Duke engineers devised an innovative technique that replaces the expert with an algorithm. They published a paper on their study in the journal Plos One last week.

To start, the researchers shine a laser back and forth through a blood sample to construct a holographic image. The technique is pretty standard — one that the team has used for years. The images can depict deformations and various signs of infection in the cells, but they still need to be analyzed to determine whether the symptoms are of malaria or another disease.

Wax and doctoral student Han Sang Park identified 23 metrics — such as cellular thickness and asymmetry — that help distinguish infected cells from uninfected ones. The metrics were helpful but less reliable than the researchers desired. None of them exceeded 90-percent accuracy on their own, so they could not match the eye of a trained practitioner with a microscope. That is where the algorithm came in.

The researchers fed data on thousands of healthy and unhealthy cells into the deep learning program, which trained itself to determine which parameters in which thresholds and which combinations would most likely signal a malaria infection.

After viewing thousands of images, the algorithm learned to correctly detect malaria with at least 97 percent accuracy and process thousands of cells per minute by deconstructing the holograms into simplified data on the 23 metrics. The holograms can be easily packaged and transmitted in bulk, since the algorithm analyzes them on such simplified metrics, making the technique viable for low-resource regions where internet connection tends to be spotty.

Although successful, the instruments Wax and Park created was best suited for laboratories. They have since developed a portable and more affordable version that can be used in the field and runs about $500.

Emerging Tech

Chinese government may have helped fund controversial CRISPR babies experiment

A new report claims that the controversial CRISPR babies gene editing experiment in China might have been carried out with the support and funding of three Chinese governmental institutions, including China’s science ministry.

Walmart drops prices on Garmin Vivofit 3 and Fenix 5 smartwatches

Walmart is currently dropping prices on select Garmin smartwatches and fitness trackers. So if you're looking to add some tech to your wrist, these savings make it slightly more affordable for you.

Microsoft Band: Users of the defunct fitness tracker offered a refund

Three years after it stopped making the device, Microsoft has announced it is finally ending support for its Band fitness tracker. The good news is that current users, if there are any still out there, can obtain a partial refund.

Pre-order the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active and get a free wireless charging pad

The awesome new Samsung Galaxy Watch Active is now available for pre-order, and if you order yours from Walmart by Thursday, March 7, then you can score a free wireless charging pad -- a $60 value -- totally free.

Fitbit drops the price, splashes on the color for spring 2019 lineup

Fitbit's spring 2019 lineup includes a new Versa Lite Edition, an affordable everyday smartwatch, as well as the stylish and sleek Inspire and Inspire HR fitness trackers. There's also the Ace 2, a swimproof tracker for kids ages 6 and up.

This ebike is so good it won a prestigious design award

The Gazelle Arroyo C8 Elite ebike picked up a prestigious IF Design Award, scoring high marks for its comfort and balance, while also looking good and offering excellent range at an affordable pice.

Fitbit Versa Lite versus Fitbit Versa: How are they different?

Fitbit took the best of its popular Versa smartwatch and removed some elements to create the new Versa Lite, an even more affordable entry-level smartwatch. How does the Versa Lite differ from the original Versa? Read on to find out.
Health & Fitness

AncestryDNA price drop makes it more affordable to discover your family origins

In step with St. Patrick's Day's emphasis on roots, AncestryDNA cut its price for a DNA-based ancestry search by $40. Send in a saliva sample to receive an estimated ethnicity breakdown, locations of origin, and possible living relatives.

Bowflex’s spring sale has limited-time deals on treadmills, home gyms, and more

Gyms membership are expensive which is home gyms are a great alternative. When it comes to home gyms, Bowflex designs great fitness training equipment for your home so you can get the full gym experience. Right now Bowflex is offering huge…

This Bowflex promo code will save you up to $1,000 on training equipment

The Bowflex HVT machine is designed to fit anyone's needs. Whether you're getting back into shape or you train every day, Bowflex's HVT, which stands for hybrid velocity training, combines both cardio and working out in one machine. Now you…

Sony could use a robot to turn your PlayStation into a fitness machine

Sony submitted a patent application for a robotic device equipped with a camera to assist in your workout. The images included suggest that the device will work with your PlayStation console.

Stay fit and save cash with our top 10 affordable Fitbit alternatives

As much as we love Fitbits, they're rather expensive. If all you want is a simple activity tracker, however, then check out these great cheap Fitbit alternatives. With offerings from brands like Garmin, you don't need to pay full price.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Write music with your voice, make homemade cheese

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

Yamaha’s Wabash ebike takes on gravel, single track, and more

The Wabash gravel ebike from Yamaha gives riders a versatile and powerful option for riding trails, pavement, mud, sand, dirt, and more, with plenty of range and power for all-day adventures.