Office Paper Could Soon Tell You If You're Ill Or Pregnant

Researchers are developing new ways to make affordable, chemically sensitive paper that could diagnose malaria, diabetes, pregnancy and plenty more. And it might even show up in your office.

Currently, there's one major application that uses sensitive paper: home pregnancy tests. If you've ever bought one, you'll know they're expensive. That's because the paper in them relies on a membrane, called nitrocellulose, to "catch" molecules of interest. But there's a better way, explains researcher Daniel Ratner to CNET:

"We want to develop something to not just ask a single question but ask many personal health questions... Is there protein in the urine? Is this person diabetic? Do they have malaria or influenza?"

Instead of expensive, single-purpose paper, Ratner has been developing paper that can bind to a whole fleet of chemicals, including DNA, antibodies and sugars. To do that, his team simply coats paper in an industrial solvent in which a range of biomolecules are suspended. When the paper is exposed to a chemical that reacts with the biomolecules, you can see a distinctive change in colour. The results are published in Langmuir.

The experiments so far have used plain old office paper as a base, and the scientists are confident that in the future the sensing technology should be "ultracheap". Who said a paperless office was the future? [Langmuir via CNET]

Image: photosteve101/Flickr

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