Biomedical engineers from Florida Atlantic University (FAU) have developed a new method for diagnosing HIV and other diseases, such as E. Coli and Staphylococcus aureus in remote locations by using a bio-sending platform consisting of a smartphone and a “paper microchip”.

The paper microchip – consisting of cellulose paper and flexible polyester films – can detect bio-agents from a drop of blood. A smartphone app is then able to diagnose HIV or other diseases using images of the microchips.

Creating Paper diagnostic materials is challenging because it requires complex labelling to amplify the signal, and is difficult to create and deploy.

According to a publication in Nature Scientific Reports, the FAU researchers developed three separate materials for sensing bio-agents, and with the use of lensless shadow imaging technology no signal amplification is necessary.

The platform is ideal for remote healthcare providers because the material is thin, lightweight and flexible and can be both fabricated and operated by unskilled personnel. The microchips can also easily and safely be disposed of by burning.

“There is a dire need for robust, portable, disposable and inexpensive bio-sensing platforms for clinical care, especially in developing countries with limited resources,” said co-author of the study, Dr Waseem Asghar.

Another co-author, Dr Hadi Shafiee, added: “Our paper microchip technologies can potentially have a significant impact on infectious diseases management in low- and middle-income countries where there is limited laboratory infrastructure.”

The researchers believe their platform could be adapted and tailored to detect other pathogens and bio-targets. Other alternative applications for the platform include drug development, food safety, environmental monitoring and veterinary medicine.

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