Medical Daily (12.04.2013)
An article in Medical Daily reported on a new microchip that can test for HIV/AIDS. Researchers, led by Dr. Rashid Bashir, professor of bioengineering and electrical and computer engineering, and colleagues at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, developed a microchip that can diagnose HIV accurately and efficiently. The microchip uses a drop of blood, which travels through a network of passages; at the end of the passages, an electrical pulse passes through the cells to measure their dimensions. The device recognizes and counts CD4 T-cells—the immune cells destroyed by HIV—and counts CD8 T-cells. CD8 T-cells are elevated in HIV-infected babies and are used to diagnose HIV in infants. The measurement takes seconds.
According to the World Health Organization, approximately one in four of the world’s 33 million HIV-infected people are unaware that they are infected, are not in treatment, and unknowingly continue to transmit the disease. A portable convenient method of testing would be a boon to healthcare workers in low- to middle-income countries where people have limited access to medical care as well as in developed countries where there are pockets of disease.
The researchers concluded that the discovery has potential to become part of a handheld, battery-powered device that would diagnose HIV in individuals anywhere in the world regardless of geography or socioeconomics. Dr. Nicholas Watkins, the nanotech engineer who developed the biochip, estimated that it would take approximately two years to develop a handheld unit for use with the microchip, and to test it in clinical trials.
The full report, “Microfluidic CD4+ and CD8+ T Lymphocyte Counters for Point-of-Care HIV Diagnostics Using Whole Blood,” was published online in the journal Science Translational Medicine (2013; doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3006870).