Researchers have used the technology behind a 5,000-year-old toy to create a cheap paper device that can separate blood and could could change how some diseases are diagnosed in the developing world.

The device, called the paperfuge, mimics the workings of traditional centrifuges that are routinely used for diagnosing infections like HIV and malaria.

Centrifuges — machines that spin super fast and separate biological materials — can cost thousands of dollars and need electricity to function. That makes it hard for developing countries to afford them or operate them. And that’s why researchers led by Stanford University bioengineer Manu Prakash were looking for a cheap alternative.

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