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Want to know if that hottie has HIV? Put their blood in the DVD player

Crafty boffins hack sitting-room boxes into lab kit

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Cunning Swedish boffins have come up with a new use for the cheap technology in optical DVD drives: it can be used to carry out complex biochemical tests, even to the point of detecting HIV in a blood sample.

See? It is basically a DVD player

This isn't hyperbole - an actual DVD player has been converted into a laser scanning microscope with micrometre resolution and used to conduct HIV tests which would normally call for expensive lab machinery.

“With an ordinary DVD player, we have created a cheap analytical tool for DNA, RNA, proteins and even entire cells,” confirms Aman Russom of the Kungliga Tekniska högskolan (Royal Institute of Technology) in Stockholm.

According to KTH's announcement:

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.

A normal hospital flow cytometry unit, a large "this is the machine that goes ping" style piece of kit, will set you back US$30,000 or more - whereas a hacked DVD player of the type Russom's KTH crew have produced could be knocked out for $200. And the "Lab-on-DVD" unit is portable and simple to operate as well, although the KTH doesn't confirm if it can still play DVDs.

"Because it delivers extremely fast analysis, the patient does not need to go home and wait for a response," enthuses Russom - though from what he says, in some cases the machine might actually be at home in the future: perhaps used by cautious types to check out prospective mattress-tango partners. ®

Remote control for virtualized desktops

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