Scrap paper could one day save hospitals on medical testing costs

Written By: Thatcher Michelsen October 25, 2012 0
Research at the University of Washington could one day lead to normal office paper being recycled and used for medical testing materials.
Research at the University of Washington could one day lead to normal office paper being recycled and used for medical testing materials.

Work conducted by a University of Washington scientist could one day yield an enormous cost-cutting benefit to hospitals that spend hundreds of thousands of dollars per year on expensive medical tests. According to a press release from the university, Daniel Ratner, an assistant professor of bioengineering, has created a process that allows certain molecules to stick to normal, everyday paper.

The sequence developed by Ratner involves a common solvent known as divinyl sulfone, long used by industrial companies as an adhesive. It involves mixing the chemical with water, allowing it to settle and then soaking paper with the solution before letting it dry for several hours. An inkjet printer is utilized to coat the resulting paper with enzymes that can be used to reveal different types of biological markers, including DNA. The result, Ratner was quoted as saying, could be applied in a wide variety of hospital settings for any number of medical tests and screenings.

"We wanted to go for the simplest, cheapest starting material, and give it more capability," Ratner told the source. "We also wanted to make the system as independent of the end applications as possible, something any researcher could plug into."

The bioengineer is set to publish his initial findings in a paper in the American Chemical Society publication Langmuir. Other teams, including one from a private firm and another from Harvard University, are currently testing other preparation methods and different types of solvents that could make the procedure even more cost-effective.

These developments are an example of the medical field trying to find their own unique methods of low impact living. Less energy is spent developing medical tests under this new process, and could one day make it more affordable for people to receive the results they need to improve their health.

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