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George Whitesides And The Paper Diagnostic Systems

1680 words - 7 pages

George Whitesides presentation is focused on how, in a world dominated by money, you can mass produce some type of way to test for diseases in poor areas of the world without sending in a doctor or having a lab. Well his solution was a small urine test, about the size of a postage stamp. These tests are small, lightweight, made of paper and carpet tape and cost close to nothing to produce. The paper wicks bodily fluids, urine for example, and the paper changes color to provide diagnostic information, such as showing how much glucose or protein is present. His goal is to distribute these simple paper diagnostic systems to developing countries, where people with basic training can administer tests and send results to distant doctors with a cellphone. (

This is just one of his life's works on a long line of successful projects. Harvard chemistry professor George Whitesides has coauthored over 950 scientific articles, he's also co-founded about a dozen companies and the 50-plus patents on which he's named. He works in four main areas: biochemistry, materials science, catalysis and physical organic chemistry. In the meantime, he's trying to invent a future where medical diagnosis can be done by anyone for virtually no cost. He's co-founded a nonprofit organization called Diagnostics for All, that aims to provide dirt-cheap diagnostic devices, to provide healthcare in a world where cost is everything. ( From experience, in his long career in chemistry, George Whitesides has been a pioneer in microfabrication and nanoscale self-assembly. Now, he's trying to create and mass produce a diagnostic lab on a chip.

While other people in the world have made small test kits that cost $50,000, Dr.Whitesides colleagues miniaturized diagnostic tests so they could move into the field with tiny pumps and thread-thin tubes. Still, he opted for an easier approach, reasoning that a drop of blood or urine could wick its way through a square of filter paper without any help.He also thought if the paper could be etched with tiny channels so that the drop followed a set path, and if that set path were mined with dried proteins and chemically triggered dyes, the thumbnail-size square could be a mini-laboratory , one that could be run off by the thousands on a Xerox machine. ( A Xerox machine is a printer that uses plastic and paper to print semi 3D pieces and cost a few thousand dollars and are reasonably common in big offices and necessary in all science institutes) (
There have already been breakthroughs with this technology on a simpler test but it still shows how effective these tests are. Diagnostics for All, the private company Dr. Whitesides founded four years ago here in Boston to commercialize his inspirations, has already created such a test for liver damage. It requires a single...

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