'Lab-on-DVD' approach enables fast, cheap HIV testing

Even though DVD players are becoming all but obsolete due to the availability of USB drives and video streaming, their cheap optics may find a new life in a cost-effective, speedy technique for on-the-spot HIV testing and other analytics.

The Lab on DVD unit converted by researchers at the School of Biotechnology at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology
The Lab on DVD unit converted by researchers at the School of Biotechnology at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Even though DVD players are becoming all but obsolete due to the availability of USB drives and video streaming, their cheap optics may find a new life in a cost-effective, speedy technique for on-the-spot HIV testing and other analytics.

Related: Cytometry goes portable for HIV monitoring in remote areas

Related: Hologram technology enables monitoring of HIV, malaria, E. coli via cell phone

Aman Russom, senior lecturer at the School of Biotechnology at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology (Stockholm, Sweden), says that his research team converted a commercial DVD drive into a laser scanning microscope that can analyze blood and perform cellular imaging with 1 µm resolution. The breakthrough creates the possibility of an inexpensive and simple-to-use tool that could have far-reaching benefits in healthcare in the developing world.

“With an ordinary DVD player, we have created a cheap analytical tool for DNA, RNA, proteins, and even entire cells,” says Russom. The so-called "Lab-on-DVD" technology makes it possible to complete an HIV test in just a few minutes, he says.

The Lab on DVD unit converted by researchers at the School of Biotechnology at the KTH Royal Institute of TechnologyThe Lab on DVD unit converted by researchers at the School of Biotechnology at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology
The Lab on DVD unit converted by researchers at the School of Biotechnology at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

In a proof-of-concept demonstration, the researchers collected cell-type CD4 + from blood and visualized it using the DVD reader technology. Enumeration of these cells using flow cytometry is now standard in HIV testing, but the practice has been limited in developing countries.

The Lab-on-DVD reaps 30 years of research and development on optical storage technology to create an alternative to flow cytometry, the standard equipment for hospitals. Flow cytometry units can cost upwards of $30,000, excluding maintenance. By contrast, mass-produced Lab-on-DVD units could be made available for less than $200, Russom says. And unlike the bulky and technically complex flow cytometry instruments, a Lab-on-DVD would be portable and require less training to operate.

“The low cost of the technology makes it suitable as a diagnostic and analytical tool in clinical practice close to the patient,” Russom says. “And because it delivers extremely fast analysis, the patient does not need to go home and wait for a response. They can get it right on the first visit to a doctor.”

Full details of the researchers' work, which was partially funded by the EU Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), appears in Nature Photonics; for more information, please visit http://www.nature.com/nphoton/journal/v7/n4/full/nphoton.2013.64.html.

-----

Follow us on Twitter, 'like' us on Facebook, and join our group on LinkedIn

Subscribe now to BioOptics World magazine; it's free!

More in Biophotonics Tools