July 15, 2015

A portable ‘paper machine’ can diagnose disease for less than $2

(July 15, 2015)  In the U.S. and other industrialized nations, testing for infectious diseases and cancer often requires expensive equipment and highly trained specialists. In countries where resources are limited, performing the same diagnostics is far more challenging. To address this disparity, scientists are developing a portable, low-cost “paper machine” for point-of-care detection of infectious diseases, genetic conditions and cancer. Their report appears in the ACS journal Analytical Chemistry.

Many modern diagnostic techniques involve analyzing DNA in a patient’s blood sample. If pathogenic bacteria, for example, are present, the test will detect the foreign genetic material. Part of the barrier to bringing this kind of technology everywhere is that it often requires multiple steps under precisely controlled temperatures to prepare a sample and analyze it. Scientists are working to simplify these procedures, but most are still not ideal for remote locations. John T. Connelly and colleagues set out to make this critical technology more accessible.

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