Paper medical lab the size of a fingerprint (w/ Video)

Feb 26, 2010 by Lin Edwards report
Paper medical lab the size of a fingerprint
The paper lab-on-a-chip prototype.

( -- A Harvard University chemistry professor is aiming to produce a blood analyzer for the developing world that will be the size of a human fingerprint, and will cost around a penny.

Professor George Whitesides has already developed a prototype for the technology, which will test blood for diseases common in the developing world, such as HIV, , , gastroenteritis and tuberculosis.

The analyzer is a small paper chip with a tree shape printed on it with water-repellant ink of the type used for comic books. Whitesides said the ink saturates several layers of paper and funnels the blood into the channels where it comes into contact with several layers of treated diagnostic paper. Patients place a drop of blood on one side of the paper and the other side displays a colored pattern that indicates to medical professionals if the patient has particular diseases.

Whitesides said the device is similar to a home pregnancy test, but the chips are much smaller and less expensive, and they can analyze the blood for multiple diseases. They also indicate the severity of the infection and not just its presence or absence.

The chips are expected to work in conjunction with mobile phones, which are increasingly popular in developing countries, even in some of the poorest areas. The idea is that people would analyze their blood locally and then send photos of the chips to diagnostic centers in the cities, thus saving them a long journey to the city themselves. Whitesides is even working with a mobile phone manufacturer to develop an application that would give patients the test results if no doctors are available. This may prove particularly useful for contagious diseases such as hepatitis C and tuberculosis.

Paper medical lab the size of a fingerprint
This paper diagnostic test analyzes the glucose (left well) and protein (right well) content of urine. The top well is a control for the glucose assay.

The new is not the first of its kind, but it is simpler than previous lab chips, and much cheaper to manufacture. Whitesides said that “if it works, and it’s cheap, it’s good for everybody.” Possible potential problems include mold, which can easily develop in tropical climates, and accessibility to doctors, since a diagnosis alone is little use unless it is coupled with treatment.

Professor Whitesides hopes the device will be available within 12 months or so. He presented his ideas at a recent TED conference.

Explore further: SI traceability for mercury vapour measurement in air

Related Stories

Diagnosis by Patterned Paper

Jan 29, 2007

Testing biological fluids such as blood and urine is essential for both diagnostics and routine checks. In remote, non-industrialized regions or for emergency on-the-spot diagnosis, current methods of laboratory analysis ...

The book of life can now literally be written on paper

Oct 19, 2009

( -- An insight from the labs of Harvard chemist George Whitesides and cell biologist Don Ingber is likely to make a fundamental shift in how biologists grow and study cells - and it's as cheap ...

Tuberculosis treatment may be shortened

Aug 17, 2009

According to Dutch researcher Hanneke Later-Nijland, it may be possible to shorten the duration of treatment for tuberculosis. Due to the long duration of treatment, not every patient sees it through. Partly because of this, ...

Recommended for you

Water leads to chemical that gunks up biofuels production

37 minutes ago

Trying to understand the chemistry that turns plant material into the same energy-rich gasoline and diesel we put in our vehicles, researchers have discovered that water in the conversion process helps form ...

Celebrating 100 years of crystallography

6 hours ago

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of a revolutionary technique that underpins much of modern science, Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN) magazine last week released a special edition on X-ray crystallography—its past, ...

Treating pain by blocking the 'chili-pepper receptor'

6 hours ago

Biting into a chili pepper causes a burning spiciness that is irresistible to some, but intolerable to others. Scientists exploring the chili pepper's effect are using their findings to develop a new drug ...

Testing the shelf-life of nuclear reactors

7 hours ago

Researchers at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho Falls and TerraPower based in Bellevue, Washington, have demonstrated the power of high-energy beams of ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Feb 26, 2010
I was in a certain place in Costa Rica (developing world) and a woman suddenly fainted.
She had pain on her chest and they called the ambulance.
The man drew her blood put it in a little device and said. You have no problem and need no hospitalization. Then he simply left.
Much money and effort is saved.
not rated yet Feb 27, 2010
you could also get free copy of diabetic cookbook and a free glucose meter at