Small can be more.
As far as mobile, ad-hoc medical labs for developing countries go, you canâ€™t get any more mobile or ad-hoc than something the size of a postage stamp. One Harvard University chemist has developed an ultraportable â€œpaperâ€ chip that can diagnose killer diseases like malaria, HIV, hepatitis, and tuberculosis for just a penny at a time. A finger prickâ€™s worth of blood on one side of the paper, according to inventor George Whitesides, produces a colorful, tree-like pattern on the other that indicates what ails you. The surprisingly low-tech secret? Water-repellant comic-book ink.
Source: Stamp-Sized Paper â€œChipâ€ Diagnoses Diseases For Just a Penny
Saturated through several layers of paper, the ink conducts a patientâ€™s blood into the forked channels, where it reacts with embedded chemicals to produce the bloom of diagnostic colorsâ€”not unlike a home pregnancy kit, Whiteside notes, except that the chips are smaller, cheaper, and test for multiple diseases simultaneously.
Plus, instead of a simple positive or negative reading, the results also illustrate the severity of the disease. Sophisticated technology this isnâ€™t, but for people living in remote parts of Africa or Asia, the chips can quickly identify those who warrant more serious medical attention, as well as individuals who need to be quarantined immediately to stem the spread of a contagion.
Whitesides and his team are working with a cellphone manufacturer to develop an app that would tell patients the results of their tests in the absence of medical professionals. â€œDoctors are as scarce a resource as money is,â€ he tells CNN.