Diagnostic Paper Trails

Diagnosing infectious and parasitic diseases around the world, particularly in developing areas, can be an expensive endeavor. Lab tests don't come cheap...until now that is. A nonprofit based in Cambridge, MA has come up with a simple, inexpensive, and flexible point-of-care testing solution. Working with Harvard chemist George Whitesides, the nonprofit Diagnostics For All (DFA) developed a postage stamp sized diagnostic device that uses engineered patterns in paper to test critical biosamples. DFA designs channels and assay zones of wax into small pieces of paper. The paper then wicks the biosamples through the channels to the assay zones where reagents await to interact with the samples. Upon contact, the assay zone changes color and results can be interpreted easily by comparing the color change with a reference provided with the particular device. The device can then be easily disposed of by burning. The technology is world-changing in many ways but most importantly, it brings critical diagnostic testing to the 60% of the world beyond the reach of modern healthcare.