Palo Alto Research Center creates faster, cheaper HIV test

The Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) has developed an iPod-sized device for HIV testing that could deeply impact HIV testing in rural, impoverished areas.

The device, which will prototypes of which will cost only $250 to build, can return a result in just 10 minutes. In contrast with the large machines currently used for HIV testing in most hospitals, large flow cytometers that cost “a hundred times more” than the inexpensive prototype, the use of lasers cuts down on cost and size:

The device works by measuring the reflection of a laser beam off a small sample of blood. Depending on the density of T-white blood cells, a key indicator for the presence and progress of HIV, the laser will scatter differently.

PARC is hopeful that if the device comes to market that it will “empower” doctors in poorer, more rural places heavily affected by AIDS. PARC isn’t the only company trying to simplify HIV testing either- a number of other companies are trying to develop and market handheld HIV testing devices:

(Peter) Kiesel is competing against a dozen other groups vying to fill the need for cheap, portable CD4 tests. Other technologies have been under development for years, including a half-dozen recent projects funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that include disposable CD4 tester kits as easy to use as a home pregnancy test. Kiesler’s laboratory-tested device is a couple of years behind these projects, some of which have been tested in the field in African countries.

[PopSci, Image]