At Ohio State University a small team of researchers has been working on creating cheap paper strips that could be kept by people at home, used to sample blood in case of disease, and shipped to a lab for diagnosis. The original goal of developing the technology has been the detection malaria, but the researchers writing in the Journal of the American Chemical Society are reporting that it can probably be used to detect any disease that results in the release of antibodies. These include certain cancers and other diseases that are not necessarily infectious.
The strips are created from sheets of paper that have microchannels and reservoirs etched in using wax applied through an inkjet printer. The wax creates a safe space for the sample to remain undisturbed, allowing it to be delivered via mail to a lab where a mass spectrometer is used to identify the pathogens within.
From the study article in Journal of the American Chemical Society:
Here, we describe a two-point separation on-demand diagnostic strategy based on a paper-based mass spectrometry immunoassay platform that adopts stable and cleavable ionic probes as mass reporter; these probes make possible sensitive, interruptible, storable, and restorable on-demand detection. In addition, a new touch paper spray method was developed for on-chip, sensitive, and cost-effective analyte detection. This concept is successfully demonstrated via (i) the detection of Plasmodium falciparum histidine-rich protein 2 antigen and (ii) multiplexed and simultaneous detection of cancer antigen 125 and carcinoembryonic antigen.