The scientist hunched over a microscope will soon be replaced by a lab technician gazing at a computer display screen.
At least that's Fred Deindoerfer's view of the future. Deindoerfer is president and chairman of the board of International Remote Imaging Systems Inc., a two-year-old Chatsworth, Calif.-based company that has applied for a patent for a slideless microscope.
The new microscope allows a scientist or lab technician to suspend specimens between two layers of fluid, rather than smear them on glass slides. Cell information is automatically analyzed by a computer and displayed on a TV monitor.
A group of scientists from the 16-person company spent more than two years and $1 million developing the microscope. Deindoerfer feels there is potential for his company's product in hospitals, clinics, labs, and medical centers.
Because the specimen analysis technique works in conjunction with existing test procedures, it can potentially be used in any of the 300 million procedures that rely on conventional microscopes. "Primarily, it's a new way to do old tests," says Deindoerfer, "rather than a new way to do new tests."
C. Michael O'Donnell, laboratory operations manager at Upjohn Laboratory Procedures West Inc., who worked as a consultant on the project, also predicts a large market for the slideless microscope. "It gives you a capability that is otherwise unavailable," he says.