The Old DVD Player Sitting In Your Garage Can Test For HIV

Remember DVD players? You know, those boxes that those oversized Blu-ray discs used to slide into? Well, looks like they won't be going the way of VHS tapes and cassettes (ask your parents) just yet,because researchers have just figured out a way to turn them into affordable, blood-analysing, cellular-imaging, laser-scanning microscopes capable of completing HIV tests in mere minutes.

To demonstrate the power of his new "Lab-on-DVD", Aman Russom, senior lecturer at the School of Biotechnology at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, successfully collected CD4 cells and visualised them using the DVD reader.

Standard HIV testing already uses a laser-based method called flow cytometry to count the CD4 cells (a low count of which would be an indicator of the disease). But access to these kinds of tests — with machines costing upwards of $US30,000 — has been highly limited in the developing countries that need it most. By contrast, the Lab-on-DVD units could be mass-produced and sold for less than $200. Plus, these relics of media yesteryear are far more portable.

It's almost equally amazing to realise that technology has advanced to the point where, even when on the verge of being outdated in one field, just a few tweaks can redirect it towards an incredible, innovative and medically astounding task in another. So be kind to your old tech toys — you never whose life they might save. []

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