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Paper 'Chips' Could Provide Cheap Diagnosis of HIV and Hepatitis

In developing nations, many treatable diseases kill thousands because there's no cheap and accessible way for diagnosis. But a Harvard professor may have discovered an affordable way for people to diagnose a disease from their homes. According to CNN, Harvard chemistry professor George Whitesides created a "paper chip" prototype, barely bigger than your fingerprint, that would cost pennies to manufacture. Best of all, it could be available in just one year.

Here's how it works: the person places a drop of blood onto the small, square piece of paper filled with water-repellent ink (similar to what is used in comic books). As the blood passes through the layers of paper, the ink funnels it into different channels, creating a colored pattern shaped like a tree on the other side. Analyzing the ink's color and distribution lets a person diagnose a number of diseases (such as HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, hepatitis and gastroenteritis) as well as the level of infection.

Dr. Gaby Vercauteren of the World Health Organization (WHO) tells CNN, "Obviously smaller, easy to use, inexpensive technologies will find their way throughout the whole system and will provide better access to care to all those who need it." But, she warns, the paper chips may be susceptible to mold in humid climates.

Diagnosis is, of course, important, but a doctor should still be consulted in case of sickness. So, Whitesides and his team are working on ways to get cell phones to people, which would let patients snap a picture of the "paper chip" and send it to a doctor. With doctors, money and resources scarce, this cost-efficient technology could radically change health care in developing nations. [From: CNN]

Tags: cellphone, chip, disease, health, hiv, paper, paper chip, PaperChip, top