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Science!: Promiscuity, Antimatter and Disease Tests

Lauren Admire | 1 Mar 2010 21:00
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Take Home Disease Kit Costs a Penny

Here's a partial answer to our health care woes: a piece of paper that can fit into the palm of your hand and diagnose diseases for the cost of a single penny.

George Whitesides, a Harvard University chemist, has created a new "chip" technology using slices of treated paper and comic book ink. When a drop of blood is pressed to one side of the paper, it's funneled into tree-like branches. Each layer of paper reacts to the blood and changes colors, reflecting the presence of diseases and the severity of it. This test will be able to detect malaria, AIDS, tuberculosis, hepatitis and other diseases.

Not only could this "lab in a chip" greatly reduce the increasing costs of simple tests, but patients in Africa or other third world countries would be able to take a picture of the results, send it to doctors worldwide, and receive diagnoses. Of course, they will still need to visit a clinic to receive proper treatment and medication, but this is certainly a step in the right direction.

"Today, many people don't get the necessary diagnosis that will lead to access to the right treatment because diagnostic tests and lab tests are, most of the time, out of pocket," explains Dr. Gaby Vercauteren, a coordinator at the World Health Organization. "People don't have the money to buy that. Therefore, often, diseases are not diagnosed or only diagnosed far too late." However, Vercauteren also warns that the paper may not fare so well in tropical climates: it may gather mold due to the humidity, rendering it ineffective.

Whitesides introduced his prototype "lab in a chip" at the TEDActive conference this year. Check it out, it's rather inspiring.

Source: Popular Science

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Lauren Admire remembers when...well...never mind. She actually can't remember when anything cost just a penny.

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