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Medicine Hardware

PARC Builds iPod-Sized HIV Detector 93

Posted by timothy
from the use-the-y-jack dept.
MikeChino writes "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 provide an immune check-up in under 10 minutes — all with a prick of the finger. 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."
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PARC Builds iPod-Sized HIV Detector

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    So it counts CD4+ T cells. Doesn't anything else kill them?

    • Re:False positives? (Score:4, Informative)

      by RsG (809189) on Friday April 02, 2010 @09:58PM (#31712164)

      You never confirm with just one test that you have HIV. A first positive gives a reason to do a second, more thorough, test to determine if the infection is present. Also, if your T-cells are low enough to give a false positive, you probably want to find out why, as other conditions could be present.

      False positives aren't as big an issue as false negatives. There's a reason why, if a person is thought to have been exposed to an HIV vector, they get multiple tests spaced out over the course of weeks or months; there is a gap between infection and lowered T-cell count. Mind you, this isn't really a new problem, or specific to the device from TFA. If the new detector is as reliable, or nearly as reliable, as current testing procedures, but cheap enough to be deployed widely in the third world, it is a very useful development.

  • This is great news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kilodelta (843627) on Friday April 02, 2010 @09:43PM (#31712046) Homepage
    And not just for the extremely rural areas. It can be used in a doctors office here in the U.S. And that the device doesn't cost a small fortune means you'll see it in widespread adoption in the first world too.
    • by Jenming (37265) on Friday April 02, 2010 @09:53PM (#31712118)

      In the US at least we already have access to Rapid Oral HIV Tests that give results in about 20 minutes, require no complicated equipment and are available for free in most cities.

      Now if this device was cheap and easy enough to appear in nightclubs...

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by biryokumaru (822262) *

        Now if this device was cheap and easy enough to appear in nightclubs...

        Then it'd be your mother...

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        In the US at least we already have access to Rapid Oral HIV Tests that give results in about 20 minutes, require no complicated equipment and are available for free in most cities.

        Why does it take two weeks to get results back (I think my last one might have taken only one week and change, but the three or so before that were all two-week waits) if it only takes 20 minutes to process the test? Is it because the free clinics (I don't go there because it's free, I go because it's anonymous) are last in line at the lab?

        • by Jenming (37265)

          The 20 minute ones do not have to send anything out to a lab.

          http://lmgtfy.com/?q=Rapid+Oral+HIV+Tests

        • by Jedi Alec (258881)

          Do they run tests for the other typical stuff such as hepatitis and gonorrea as well? Makes sense to wait till all the tests are complete before informing the tested.

    • You appear to be confused.

      In America, devices such as this are priced higher than existing testing equipement "because they can". It's more convenient, faster and has a better form factor than existing equipement. Setting aside the huge pile of money whomever manufactures/sells this device needs to have to pay insurance companies for when they are sues because of a false positive/negative result, this kind of device is EXACTLY what the patent system is aimed at. You need to gouge the hell out of everybod

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I can't even follow your angry logic to tell what you are mad about but I work in an ER and we've used the rapid oral HIV test for some time. A positive result requires an ELISA and a negative result still needs a retest at a future date. There have been no lawsuits as it is clearly just a rapid screen and the patients understand this. It is fairly cheap and much smaller than an iPOD already. This is just a press release masquerading as news.

    • by grcumb (781340)

      And not just for the extremely rural areas. It can be used in a doctors office here in the U.S. And that the device doesn't cost a small fortune means you'll see it in widespread adoption in the first world too.

      It's not great news; it's great technology.

      I live in the developing world and I can tell you that this would be an insanely dangerous device in the hands of the wrong people. HIV/AIDS is only just beginning to touch this very remote country, and the level of superstition and fear surrounding the disease is intense. Having an easy means to test for the disease - without the necessary education and awareness-raising - would almost certainly lead some village leaders to force testing on their entire population

  • iPod-sized? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by the_other_chewey (1119125) on Friday April 02, 2010 @09:46PM (#31712066)
    iPod-sized? Really? Which one? nano, mini, classic, touch, ...
    How about some real measurement, like a pack of cards or fractions of a VW Beetle?
    • by Ziekheid (1427027)

      They've sure come a long way since the iPad sized version of the detector..

    • iPod-sized? Really? Which one? nano, mini, classic, touch, ... How about some real measurement, like a pack of cards or fractions of a VW Beetle?

      Smaller than a VW Beetle but larger than an iPod Nano. I think they all come with a pack of cards so you can while away the 10 minutes of waiting.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "How about some real measurement, like a pack of cards or fractions of a VW Beetle?"

      Early or late air-cooled, or water-cooled Beetle?

    • by mdwh2 (535323)

      The daily Apple story is old fashioned - now we're going for multiple stories everyday.

      I thought they were scraping the barrel with yesterday's "Ipad is reshaping the Internet" - now we have the laughable completely irrelevant reference.

      Seriously, how much is Apple paying Slashdot for the product placement?

  • Soooo... (Score:4, Funny)

    by ciaohound (118419) on Friday April 02, 2010 @09:51PM (#31712108)

    There's an app for that?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tomhudson (43916)
      &gt: "There's an app for that?"

      No:

      all with a prick of the finger

      One prick to catch it, one prick to test for it.

      Of course, this could have all been avoided if people didn't have sex Soviet Russia - style:

      "In Soviet Russia, prick probes YOU!"

      It doesn't matter whether you're straight or gay - Chlamydia, herpes, aids ... they don't discriminate. Use a condom!

  • ...with the addition of common STD infection detection capability, I can see these being bought by regular people. Can you imagine what this would do for the STD worries of people involved in "One Night Stands"?

    • by RsG (809189)

      Can you imagine what this would do for the STD worries of people involved in "One Night Stands"?

      Won't help very much. You can't tell if you've got an STD a few hours after having sex. It can take days or weeks for a test to come up positive in an infected individual post-exposure, depending on a wide variety of factors. Hell, that applies to any disease, not just the sexual ones.

      So, a hypochondriac might want one, purely for peace of mind, but your average person wouldn't be any better off than if they waited for a trip to a clinic. Mind you, and this is purely for STDs not other diseases, complet

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by OzPeter (195038)

        Can you imagine what this would do for the STD worries of people involved in "One Night Stands"?

        Won't help very much. You can't tell if you've got an STD a few hours after having sex.

        I think the OP was more like "Look at me .. I'm STD free, you're STD free so lets fuck!"

        However STD's such as HSV2 are hard to detect at the best of times, so I doubt it would a 100% guarantee

      • by upuv (1201447)

        In developed countries this tech would most likely be used by individuals to prove they are STD free. Also possibly in the near future to also do an "instant" test for insurance purposes. ( This should be illegal now or soon in US thank god. )

        In developing countries it will probably be used by aid agencies. Most likely in conjunction with food, water etc distribution. By screening for disease at aid distribution points you have an excellent means of getting health aid to those that need it.

        I will also m

      • by anarche (1525323)

        Might not help actually diagnose diseases, but when it comes to picking up?

        "No babe, I'm completely clean! Ignore that pustulating cold-sore; check out my HIV-clean iPod docking machine!"

    • What about for saber toothed crotch crickets? I can see the advantages and it is a step forward, but it needs more development. That kind of research would make all other dirty jobs seem like nothing!

    • by Nadaka (224565)

      Give them a false sense of security?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Don't want to pick up HIV from the last person that got their finger pricked.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tpstigers (1075021)
      Holy crap. Really? Do you actually think that someone would use a device to test for HIV without switching the needles? Or, for that matter, would use ANY medical device without switching the needles? We're talking about medical professionals here, not heroin addicts.
      • There are still "Medical Professionals", including doctors, thinking that getting blood in the eyes poses none of little risk for the contraction of HIV; and this aside from the third world. This happens in the high-developed countries.

        Ambulanciers and doctors having the wrong thought of its infection vector causing dozens of extra victims with the HIV virus; only because of mis/insufficient information. Maybe aids-prevention should start with getting the right information at the right people whom should ca

        • by PSandusky (740962)

          There are still "Medical Professionals", including doctors, thinking that getting blood in the eyes poses none of little risk for the contraction of HIV; and this aside from the third world. This happens in the high-developed countries.

          Ambulanciers and doctors having the wrong thought of its infection vector causing dozens of extra victims with the HIV virus; only because of mis/insufficient information. Maybe aids-prevention should start with getting the right information at the right people whom should care...

          Speaking as someone who used to handle untested blood donations... in leaky bags and tubes...

          Academically, it's widely understood among those at risk that an exposure can transmit HIV. We had annual in-services and "homework assignments" to drive home the point. The problem is one of people not caring about their probability of handling a hot unit/patient/vector. Out of, say, 1500 units of blood to come through on a single collection day, maybe one would come back HIV positive. Maybe. On a rare occasion, tw

    • by T Murphy (1054674)
      Well just prick a known-positive person first and the device will be accurate for all other patients as long as it says they're positive.
  • Finally! (Score:5, Funny)

    by parc (25467) on Friday April 02, 2010 @09:54PM (#31712124)

    Wait, I did WHAT?

    Sorry, I've been waiting something like 10 years for this moment...

    • by Abstrackt (609015)

      Wait, I did WHAT?

      Sorry, I've been waiting something like 10 years for this moment...

      Don't feel bad. Most people go their entire lives without accomplishing something like what you pulled off in what I can only assume was a drunken stupor. ;)

  • by X0563511 (793323) on Friday April 02, 2010 @09:54PM (#31712132) Homepage Journal

    ... who finds it funny that this portable HIV detection device uses a lance?

    "Sir, first the good news: you were not HIV positive. Now, the bad: you are now."

    I'm sure the lances would be disposable and all, but still.

    • by e9th (652576)
      Maybe not so funny. Remember the VA hospitals that didn't properly sterilize their equipment? [cnn.com]
    • by Tromad (1741656)

      There is nearly no concern with using disposable lances. They are frequently and safely used for a variety of common lab and consumer tests. Safer than having your blood drawn.

  • WTF? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Hognoxious (631665)

    I thought iPods caused HIV.

  • They're going to end up giving to Apple anyway, so might as well describe it in terms they'll be familiar with. This is THAT Palo Alto Research Center, right?? Er...is it, actually?

    • Yeah... why not 'pocket sized' or 'cellphone sized'? Maybe this is an attempt to appeal to today's younger market.

  • Not an HIV detector (Score:4, Informative)

    by LoneHighway (1625681) on Friday April 02, 2010 @10:12PM (#31712262)
    This is not an HIV detector, it's a CD4 T-cell counter. If the count is below 250, it is assumed there is an immune system problem which in poor countries is likely caused by HIV. There is already a cheap test for HIV, using a mouth swab.
    • by TamCaP (900777)
      A pocket sized RT-PCR HIV detector would be ultra awesome... but it's yet beyond our reach...
    • by DJRumpy (1345787) on Friday April 02, 2010 @11:42PM (#31712730)

      The only problem with this is that only after the disease has matured in the host and taken time to have a noticeable detrimental affect on the immune system, it's a little late in the game. The virus itself can spend months or even years without bringing the immune system down that low. The entire time, the infected host would be able to spread the disease, all while assuming they were 'clean' if they are not properly educated about the exact metric this test uses.

      Although this test might serve a simple function of finding people who have almost moved into full blow A.I.D.S, it does not do enough to detect the disease early enough and it does not remove the need for better testing. At most, it's just a general catch all for the very obvious cases (obvious by immune system function). If anything, this would give a false sense of security.

  • What is the detection rate and false positive rate? I can't think a 10 minute check is that accurate considering how long the current methods take. With a disease that still has such a massive stigma as AIDS there could be serious consequences from someone receiving a false positive reading. In developing countries people just need to be taught to use condoms* and otherwise not swap bodily fluids as a general rule. Trying to get the infected in particular to not engage in infection spreading activities is f

  • I'll be buying one of these for my bedroom :D

    Oh wait, this is /. etc, etc.

  • Perhaps the term iPod sized used to mean something when there was only one size of iPod. Now, there is the old big one, the mini, the nano, the touch, the shuffle and perhaps more that I am missing.

  • Call girls use? (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by cpscotti (1032676)
    I can see call girls (or whatever u may call them and the like) having this things to test clients beforehand.. The whole thing will turn into a mad finger drilling paranoia!
    Or worse... Picture dads testing their daughter's 15 y.o. boyfriend and saying:
    "Are you afraid?! Do you have something to hide?!!!"

    Not to mention that I miss using libraries of the congress and needles' heads as spatial units.. now.. an iPod?! that's lame!
  • by toppavak (943659) on Friday April 02, 2010 @11:12PM (#31712590)
    It should be clarified that what PARC is announcing is a small flow cytometer [wikipedia.org] used to count T-cells that express the CD4 antigen [wikipedia.org], a particular subset of T-cells that is most affected by HIV. A dropping concentration of these cells in HIV+ patients' blood is a reasonable metric for the progression of AIDS. It should also be noted that the system PARC demonstrated is not a full-fledged CD4+ T-cell counter, because you also need to measure CD3 expression to tell apart CD4+ T-cells and other white cells that express CD4, like monocytes. Traditional flow cytometers do this by using two antibodies (CD3 and CD4) labelled with different colored fluorescent dyes and measuring the intensity of each color channel using a photomultiplier tube or avalanche photodiode (these are very weak signals!). The PARC prototype is a proof-of-concept that only measures CD4 expression so would very often overestimate the true concentration of CD4+ T-cells in blood.

    The interesting thing here is that they've apparently been able to do away with PMTs and APDs as detectors using a method called spatially modulated fluorescence emission. Typically a very narrowly focused laser beam (a few microns or thinner) is used to excite the fluorescent label, so you get precious few photons out of it to detect (hence the need for high-gain detectors like PMTs and APDs). The idea here is to stretch out the excitation region and use a slit pattern to help in background subtraction since you can predict the locations (in time) of the fluorescence signal as it passes by the slits allowing for integration of that signal over a longer period of time with lower background than you would otherwise be able to with a standard photodiode. This also lets you mitigate the loss of bandwidth you'd get by stretching out your detection region since you can figure out which tiny spikes in signal from the photodiode go together based on the known pattern of spacings in the slit and the timings of the peaks.

    Very clever! Definitely a lot more interesting than all the cytometer-on-chip microfluidics stuff that's been thrown around since the 80's to no notable success.
    • The parent post is the best damn reply I have ever seen slashdot.
    • <quote>A dropping concentration of these cells in HIV+ patients' blood is a reasonable metric for the progression of AIDS.</quote>

      translation: a lot of the time it isn't.

      which means this machine will be responsible for more of the current tragedy taking place: healthy people are talked into taking poisonous AIDS drugs, the side effects of which will convince they were right to take the drugs. after years of debilitation finally their livers or hearts will fail, and AIDS hacks will call it "AIDS"
      • Re:that's crap (Score:4, Insightful)

        by IorDMUX (870522) <mark.zimmerman3NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday April 03, 2010 @12:58AM (#31713192) Homepage

        did you know right now in the USA liver failure is the leading cause of AIDS death?

        Even if that were true, it could easily be astounding evidence of the effectiveness [wikipedia.org] of the AIDS drug cocktail.

        (i.e. The patients are living long enough to die to something such as liver failure rather than immunodeficiency-related conditions)

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by toppavak (943659)
          Its actually kind of true, but for the wrong reason. One of the leading causes of death in AIDS patients is chronic viral hepatitis [wikipedia.org] which destroys the liver. About 80% of cases of liver failure in AIDS patients can be directly attributable to viral hepatitis, although liver disease only accounts for 14% of the total mortality in AIDS patients. Even death due to cardiovascular disease (9% of total mortality in HIV+ patients) have been seen to correlate significantly with CD4+ T-cell count. That's not to say
  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Friday April 02, 2010 @11:18PM (#31712614) Homepage

    Portable tests are not necessarily what is necessary to make infectious disease detection accessible to the 3rd-world. The main factor is cost, and that is usually addressed with speed and volume. Ex: A molecular diagnostic device could run a 96-well plate of patient samples in about an hour. That's 96 patients per hour as compared with... 6 patients per hour with this device. Now, depending on what this thing costs it might make-up for it, but I highly doubt it.

  • Clueless (Score:2, Informative)

    by joost (87285)

    a California outfit called the Palo Alto Research Center

    A California outfit? Holy understatement! They invented the mouse and the desktop metaphor! They've been inventing ground-breaking stuff since the sixties!

  • why is there a need to compare this and that to ipod. reading initially the headline, i though it was an ipod with hiv detection capability. everybody seems to be comparing stuff to apple products. ipod this, ipad that, iphone there, etc.

    but i will have to bow to the people at apple for their great marketing. they have successfully made their products the de facto standard for everyone to have.

  • ...except for the fanbois and the advertisers who conveniently snuck that $brandName in there.

  • The problem of the AIDS epidemic is societal, not medical. AIDS is spread because people cannot think beyond the immediate consequences of their actions, and choose to ignore caution in favor of getting "that feeling". If you can't get society to do something as simple as using a condom, what good is it to tell them they've been infected afterward? Do we really expect them to refrain from sex now, when they couldn't/wouldn't before, even when they knew there was a risk of death, and chose to ignore it?

  • here in Brasil[know as a third country] we have in the almost all the cities, even small ones, places where we can do AIDS test for free, It is possible to know the result in about 30 minutes. There is now a project where people can send samples of blood by mail.
  • I'm quite worried about this device, because - imagine you'd learn you are HIV positive this way... wouldn't you break down and possibly try to commit suicide or so? when doctors tell you that you have a deadly, uncurable disease, they offer psychological help and such.
    It's not like someone shows around his new gadget on a party and "WHOA! YOU'RE GONNA DIE SOON!"
  • If this isn't.. i don't know what is..

    What happened to the terms 'hand held', or 'pocket sized'.. Or is that so 80's to be 1/2 way descriptive?

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