What else can’t technology do? What next are people going to create next? Man, this is one heck of an accomplishment. A chemistry professor at Harvard University is trying to shrink a medical laboratory onto a piece of paper that’s the size of a fingerprint and costs about a penny.

George Whitesides has developed a prototype for paper “chip” technology that could be used in the developing world to cheaply diagnose deadly diseases such as HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, hepatitis and gastroenteritis.

And great news! The first products will be available in about a year. His efforts, which find their inspiration from the simple designs of comic books and computer chips, are surprisingly low-tech and cheap.

This is how it works. Patients put a drop of blood on one side of the slip of paper, and on the other appears a colorful pattern in the shape of a tree, which tells medical professionals whether the person is infected with certain diseases.

Water-repellent comic-book ink saturates several layers of paper, he said. The ink funnels a patient’s blood into tree-like channels, where several layers of treated paper react with the blood to create diagnostic colors.

With this on hand, patients simply can take photos of the chips with cell phones and then send them for diagnosis without the need to go to the clinic or hospital. And Whitesides said his group is also working with a cell phone maker to develop apps that would tell patients the results of their tests automatically if doctors are not available.

The tests may also be useful for highly contagious diseases such as hepatitis C, which require sick people to be quarantined to prevent further infection. Pretty impressive technology! (photo taken from CNN’s website).

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