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Lab-on-a-chip systems have been rapidly emerging to pave the way toward ultra-compact, efficient, mass producible and cost-effective biomedical research and diagnostic tools. Although such microfluidic and microelectromechanical systems have achieved high levels of integration, and are capable of performing various important tasks on the same chip, such as cell culturing, sorting and staining, they still rely on conventional microscopes for their imaging needs. Recently, several alternative on-chip optical imaging techniques have been introduced, which have the potential to substitute conventional microscopes for various lab-on-a-chip applications. Here we present a critical review of these recently emerging on-chip biomedical imaging modalities, including contact shadow imaging, lens-free holographic microscopy, fluorescent on-chip microscopy and lens-free optical tomography.