Cheap 3D sensor could test for HIV, malaria

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have created an inexpensive 3D paper sensor that has the potential to test for deadly diseases like HIV and malaria.

According to an announcement from the school, the sensor, based on origami, goes beyond limited one-dimensional paper sensors like those in pregnancy tests because the folding allows for more substances to be tested, enabling more complex testing. It also only costs 10 cents per sensor.

Richard Crooks, a professor of chemistry at University of Texas who designed the sensor with the help of doctoral student Hong Liu, said that the beauty of the test is that anyone can use them.

"You don't need a specialist, so you could easily imagine an NGO with some volunteers folding these things up and passing them out," he said. "They're easy to produce, so the production could be shifted to the clientele, as well."

The sensor already has been tested on glucose successfully, according to Crooks, who said biomarkers for certain tested diseases are essentially embedded into various spots on the paper.

In a related story, researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have developed their own inexpensive medical sensor that can monitor for a bevy of health problems such as immune disorders, allergies, infections and AIDS, the school announced this week.

The device, which is the size of an adult's thumbnail, is made up of "potassium-impregnated glass," and involves mixing a patient's fluids with antibodies. The antibodies then are attached to magnetic iron and injected into the device where laser lights measure results.

According to the device's creator, Manish Butte, M.D., the prototype sensor costs $60 to build but would be cheaper if mass manufactured.

To learn more:
- read the University of Texas announcement
- here's the Stanford announcement

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