Right now it’s difficult, if not impossible, to quickly detect HIV in patients living in impoverished countries. That may all change soon, though — researchers at a California outfit called the Palo Alto Research Center have built an iPod-sized handheld device that can offer up an immune check-up in under 10 minutes — all with a prick of the finger.
The $250 prototype device analyzes blood taken from a finger prick by sending blood cells through a laser beam-illuminated channel, where a detector checks out light patterns to count CD4+ T cells — immune system cells killed by HIV. When the T cell count drops under 250, antiretroviral treatment is recommended.
The research center’s device could be invaluable to third world health workers who may not have access to labs. They can simply stick the analyzer in their backpacks and whip it out for on-the-spot testing. With millions of people around the world without access to a full-size laboratory, PARC’s device could revolutionize the detection and treatment of HIV.