Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada; Department of Biosystems Engineering, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada; Department of Immunology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada; Department of Biological Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada. Electronic address: [Email]
Cell-based assays including both cell identification assays and cell functional assays are broadly used in life science research and for medical applications. Traditionally, cell-based assays are performed in professional laboratories. Although such an approach is reliable, it significantly limits the accessibility of cell-based assays by many researchers without specialized cell imaging facilities and does not permit on-site use at most clinics. Over recent years, growing efforts have been made to overcome this limitation by developing various portable cell imaging platforms. Herein, we provide a timely review on the recent development of portable imaging systems and their biomedical applications. We describe the respective applications of three main classes of portable imaging technologies including miniaturized microscope, lens-free imaging device and smartphone-based microscope for cell-based assays. We conclude by discussing our views on the opportunities, problems and future directions of this emerging field.