The incidence of Kaposi's sarcoma, a type of cancer linked to AIDS, has decreased in the United States, as antiretroviral drugs that treat HIV have become more commonplace. The disease, however, remains prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, where poor access to medical care and lab tests only compound the problem. Now, Cornell University engineers have created a new smartphone-based system, consisting of a plug-in optical accessory and disposable microfluidic chips, for in-the-field detection of the herpes virus that causes Kaposi's.
"The accessory provides an ultraportable way to determine whether or not viral DNA is present in a sample," says mechanical engineer David Erickson, who developed the technique along with his graduate student, biomedical engineer Matthew Mancuso. The technique could also be adapted for use in detecting a range of other conditions, from E. coli infections to hepatitis. Mancuso will describe the work at the Conference on Lasers and Electro Optics (CLEO: 2013), taking place June 9-14 in San Jose, Calif.