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Credit Card Sized Tech Tells You if You Have HIV in 15 Minutes, for $1

Bobby Travis

Bobby Travis

This is a post by Bobby Travis, who wrote with me at 40Tech from 2009 through 2012. Bobby has since moved on to bigger and better things, but I've left all of his great contributions up on the site. - Evan
Bobby Travis

Credit Card Sized Tech Tells You if You Have HIV in 15 Minutes, for $1 | 40Tech

This is one time when downscaling technology isn’t a cliché. None of that “cell phone implanted in your tooth” malarkey– the mChip is serious business. Serious, potentially game (and life) changing business.

Once upon a time, getting tested for HIV involved a trip to the doctor, a bit of blood-letting, and a rather tense wait. It was months, at first, then weeks, then days, and eventually it worked its way down to minutes. That’s all fine and dandy if you live in a developed country, but if you happen to live in Africa, where HIV is running rampant, then visiting your local doctor’s office could involve something of a trek. A trek you may not be able to afford or, due to fear of results, lack of time, or whatever other reason, may not be inclined to make.

Researchers at Columbia University have found a way to help.

Using nanoparticles and microfluidics, they have taken an entire laboratory and miniaturized it in the mChip. All it takes is a drop of blood and a cheap optical sensor and the chip gives results in 15 minutes that are plain as day and require no interpretation. It can test for HIV and/or syphilis and has a 100% detection rate. There is a 4-6% chance of a false positive, as well, but that is the same margin in a traditional lab test. A false positive may be scary, but it beats the hell out of a false negative.

The best part about the mChip is the price. It only costs $1, which is amazing for a new piece of technology meant to help people. Or maybe I’m just a wee bit cynical… Either way, the price is fantastic.

The mChip also has the potential to be instantly actionable. If the user has a digital medical file, the mChip can reportedly use cellphone or satellite technology to interface with medical files and include the new record.

This is a fantastic step forward in the fight against HIV in undeveloped countries, but it’s possible technology like this will find its way into your local Wal-Mart pharmacy at some point. It would only make sense, wouldn’t it? And dating could get just a bit safer — if a bit awkward: “Just put a drop of your blood here, please. If all goes well, we can get started in about 15 minutes.”

Side Note: There is also an mChip that diagnoses prostate cancer that has been approved for use in Europe.

What are your thoughts on the mChip?

(via engadget, DVICE, FastCompany, Nature Medicine)