Human World

George Whitesides describes a cheap, tiny AIDS test

George Whitesides: The overall world is less stable. We will be in a more secure world if everyone shares the benefits of the first world.

Chemist George Whitesides of Harvard University is talking about a new, more affordable diagnostic test – useful to detect diseases like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria – which kill millions each year in the developing world. The test would cost only pennies to make, and it’s made of paper.

George Whitesides: We are developing a series of technologies that have the characteristics that they try to provide high performance, specifically in diagnostics, at very low cost.

The diagnostic test is about the size of a postage stamp, and Whitesides said it works kind of like a pregnancy test.

George Whitesides: You put a drop of blood or a drop of urine or some other body fluid on it, and you let a certain amount of molecular chemistry take place, and parts of it change color.

Microscopic channels in the paper route blood or urine into testing wells that change colors when disease is present. Whitesides added that Africa might see the first of these tests to detect liver failure by the end of 2009. He said tests for major infectious diseases like AIDS are underway.

George Whitesides: We’re just at the beginning of this process.

Our thanks to George Whitesides.
George Whitesides is a professor of chemistry at Harvard University, and won the Inaugural Dreyfus Prize in Chemical Sciences in 2009.

May 7, 2009
Human World

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