Electronics Essay

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isposable diagnostic tests currently under development could offer medical workers and patients in rural areas more detailed health information, such as viral counts in the blood of HIV patients, without the need for expensive equipment such as cameras, computers, or even cell phones. Researchers at two startup companies and the University of Illinois are building all the capabilities of expensive lab-bench tests onto a piece of paper, without adding significant weight or other cost to the tests. The group behind these flexible arrays of LEDs, light detectors, and transistors is also working with medical-device companies to incorporate them into surgical tools and bedside monitors for hospitals. "The only way many people will get medical care at all is if [a medical worker] can walk or ride a bike to a rural area carrying all the medical equipment they need," says Una Ryan, CEO of Diagnostics For All, a company that's developing single-use paper diagnostic tests. Paper is cheap, lightweight, and easy to dispose of by burning. The company has patterned postage-stamp-sized pieces of paper with channels that wick blood and other fluids into an area treated with chemicals that change color to indicate, for example, elevated liver enzymes that reveal an AIDS patient is on the wrong drugs. The simple color-change reaction can provide critical information that lets doctors know whether a patient is in danger. "We don't need water or electricity," says Ryan. Diagnostics For All will begin field trials of this liver-enzyme test, which costs a few cents per test, in Kenya next year. But many patients would benefit from health information that's more quantitative than can be obtained from a color-change-based test. Ryan says the company would like to provide HIV/AIDS patients and their medical providers with information about viral loads, for example, without any

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