Researchers develop affordable and portable disease diagnostics for developing world

February 26, 2013 by Michael Rogers

(Phys.org)—When viruses like HIV/AIDS strike in underdeveloped regions of the world, they often spiral out of control in part because there is no easy way to bring diagnostic equipment to remote areas so that the diseases can be identified, treated, and stopped before they spread. Now, an inexpensive, portable, easy-to-use device, built by a team of Caltech engineers and biologists, promises to speed the diagnosis of HIV/AIDS and other diseases—and improve treatment—in even the most far-flung corners of the world.

The team is led by Caltech biologist and Nobel Laureate David Baltimore, president emeritus and the Robert Andrews Millikan Professor of Biology, and Axel Scherer, the Bernard Neches Professor of Electrical Engineering, Applied Physics and Physics. With two recent grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Scherer and Baltimore have built a new version of a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) device, which generates many copies of a pathogenic nucleic acid, allowing the infection to be detected.

The new PCR machine is small enough to stow in a backpack and is as simple to operate as a DVD player. Its inventors hope that it will make rapid molecular diagnostic techniques and the resulting health-care benefits available and affordable to all who need them.

Read more: Researchers develop affordable and portable disease diagnostics for developing world — phys.org.

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