Soon, cheap HIV test using DVD scanners

HIV testingResearchers have developed a novel technique for cheap, quick and on-the-spot HIV testing using DVD scanners. (THinkstock)

Researchers have developed a novel technique for cheap, quick and on-the-spot HIV testing using DVD scanners.

Researchers said the cheap optics in DVD players may find a new life in a cost-effective and speedy technique for on-the-spot HIV/AIDS testing and other analytics.

Aman Russom, senior lecturer at the School of Biotechnology at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, said that his research team converted a commercial DVD drive into a laser scanning microscope that can analyse blood and perform cellular imaging with one-micrometre resolution.

The breakthrough creates the possibility of an inexpensive and simple-to-use tool that could have far-reaching benefits in health care in the developing world.

"With an ordinary DVD player, we have created a cheap analytical tool for DNA, RNA, proteins and even entire cells," said Russom.

The so-called "Lab-on-DVD" technology makes it possible to complete an HIV test in just a few minutes, he said.

In a proof of concept demonstration, the researchers collected cell-type CD4 + from blood and visualised it using the DVD reader technology, DVD LSM.

Enumeration of these cells using flow cytometry is now standard in HIV testing, but the practise has been limited in developing countries. Russom says DVD-based technology will provide an attractive option.

The Lab-on-DVD reaps 30 years of research and development on optical storage technology to create an alternative to flow cytometry, the standard equipment for hospitals.

Flow cytometry units can cost upwards of USD 30,000, excluding maintenance. By contrast, mass-produced Lab-on-DVD units could be made available for less than USD 200, Russom said.

And unlike the bulky and technically-complex flow cytometry instruments, a Lab-on-DVD would be portable and require less training to operate.

"The low cost of the technology makes it suitable as a diagnostic and analytical tool in clinical practise close to the patient," Russom said.

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