Harvard researchers develop simple detector that could be used worldwide
Harvard researchers have created an inexpensive detector that can be used by health care workers in the world’s poorest areas to monitor diabetes, detect malaria, discover environmental pollutants, and perform tests that now are done by machines costing tens of thousands of dollars.
The device, already in field trials in India, costs about $25 to produce, weighs just two ounces, and is about the size of a pack of cigarettes. It was modeled after the latest generation of inexpensive glucose monitoring devices, which are in widespread use, but whose function is limited to testing blood sugar. In addition to conducting the tests, the new device can send data over the lower-tech cellphones common in the developing world to distant physicians, who can text instructions back to researchers, government officials tracking outbreaks, and others.
“We designed it to be as close as possible to a glucose meter, because that’s familiar to people,” said Alex Nemiroski, a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Flowers University Professor George Whitesides and lead author of a paper, released today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, describing the work. “There are two buttons. Select the test and press ‘go.’ It should be as much of a no-brainer as possible.”
Nemiroski and colleagues in Whitesides’ Lab, the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, the Kavli Institute for Bionano Science & Technology, Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and the University of Oviedo, Spain, worked on the device over nearly three years. At this point, Nemiroski said, he’s turned the device over to entrepreneurs interested in commercializing the technology.