This photo shows a prototype of the Whitesides Group Research.
As we learn about infectious diseases in developing nations, it is frustrating how many people die from diseases that can easily be treated. A number of factors including economics, lack of trained medical professionals and an inefficient way to diagnose the diseases early enough to provide adequate treatment, are part of the problem. The TED-talk given by George Whitesides titled a lab the size of a postage stamp, discusses his research that attempts to eliminate these factors and change how diseases are diagnosed around the world.
Currently, Whitesides’s research shrinks an entire lab down to the size of a postage stamp and they do this using paper. A drop of blood or a sample of urine can be used for diagnosing a variety of diseases including HIV, hepatitis, and tuberculosis. Paper has been used before in the form of pregnancy tests and home diabetes kits. What the Whitesides lab is working on is controlling the flow of the sample by using multiple layers of paper and double-sided carpet tape. Both elements are easy to attain and are inexpensive. Also, the tape and paper layering allow for the creation of 3-demensional flowing and thus more control over the flow of the sample throughout the paper and the order in which the samples are exposed to different antigens and chemicals.
The paper tests will be prefect to use to diagnosis people in developing countries, where millions die from treatable diseases each year. A great advantage to using the paper technology is the elimination of sharp needles, which are hard to dispose of properly. You can simply burn the paper in order to get rid of it. The paper strips are small, light and easy to make. The tests are easy to administer and a lot less expensive than other diagnostic tests.
This technology could very well limit the spread of contagious disease. The fact that the test are light and easy to transport will allow for accurate diagnosis to reach people who may not normally receive medical attention. Also, it is inexpensive to make, which makes it more affordable to those living on very low income. The technology will increase the number of correct diagnostics and potentially limit the number of false positives for a certain disease. This will allow for a limited amount of medicine to go to only those who need it as opposed to those who were incorrectly diagnosed. I see this product changing the way diagnostics are done in developing nations.