A group of researchers from the School of Biotechnology at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm have converted a standard DVD drive into a laser-based microscope that can perform blood analysis. The optical drive can be used to analyze DNA, RNA, proteins and even entire cells, said senior lecturer Aman Russom.

During a proof of concept demonstration, the team gathered cell-type CD4+ from blood and was able to visualize it using the modified DVD drive. As Phys.org points out, enumeration of these cells using flow cytometry is standard practice in HIV testing but has been lacking in developing countries.

Flow cytometry machines, which are bulky and technically complex, can cost more than $30,000 each which has limited their reach to hospitals in more developed regions. By comparison, the Lab-on-DVD as it's being called could be produced in volume for less than $200. What's more, it's far more portable and would require much less training to operate. It's a breakthrough that could give such countries an easy to use tool that would have far-reaching benefits.

A typical commercial DVD drive simply needs two physical changes and a software alteration to be converted.

Russom noted that the low cost of the technology makes it suitable as a diagnostic and analytical tool in clinical practice close to the patient. Because it delivers extremely fast analysis, the patient isn't required to go home to wait for the results. He said they would be able to get the results during the very first visit.