Print 5 comment(s) - last by Chemical Chris.. on Jul 20 at 4:27 PM

Lab on a Chip  (Source: Western News)
Could help make HIV testing more affordable

Alexander Revzin, a UC Davis biomedical engineer professor, along with UCLA electrical engineer Prof. Aydogan Ozcan, have created a microfluidic device, called "lab on a chip," specifically for HIV testing.

The "lab on a chip" instructs antibodies to detect and "capture" HIV-infected white blood cells called T-cells, and the test then calculates the levels and types of cytokines (inflammatory proteins) that the cells are releasing. It is a holographic, lens-free imaging mechanism that counts the number of cytokine molecules and captured T-cells and is able to deliver results in seconds, which is six to 12 times faster than other related blood sample tests.

The test is made of polymer film with an array of miniature spots that contain antibodies that are specific to the CD4 and CD8 T-cells as well as three different types of cytokines which are "printed in the same array." The T-cells stop and stick on these miniature spots when blood flows across them. Then, T-cell types are captured on antibody spots "specific for the cytokines they might produce," and antibodies activate the cells helping spots adjacent to the cells catch cytokines they secreted. With T-cell subsets now connected to their secreted cytokines, the antibody spots' visible color intensity allows researchers to see differences in cytokine production, which makes T-cell count possible without mechanical scanning or lenses. 

Diagnosing and monitoring HIV today requires many highly trained specialists and expensive machines in order to count two types of T-cells, calculate the ratio between them and count cytokines as well. The process is called flow cytometry, and AIDS activists and healthcare workers have been asking for easier and less expensive ways to test for HIV.

In response to these requests, this particular "lab on a chip" test is currently being altered so it can be used for multi-parametric blood analysis in both the developing world and "resource-poor" areas. It is also affordable, and Revzin is hoping it will be available for clinical use at some point.

"While the point of care field focuses on detection of single parameter (e.g. CD4 counts), we believe that the simplicity of the test need not compromise information content," said Revzin. "So, we set out to develop a test that could be simple and inexpensive but would provide several parameters based on a single injection of a small blood volume."

Revzin and his team along with Ozcan published their study on the HIV testing device in Analytical Chemistry's May 2010 issue.

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Awesome work!
By amanojaku on 7/19/2010 12:31:13 PM , Rating: 5
One step closer to the ultimate medical device: a bloodstream-traveling nanomachine capable of analyzing and diagnosing medical conditions on the microscopic scale. Short of a medical tricorder, a nanomachine is the most efficient way to constantly monitor the body for out of the ordinary conditions. Too many diseases are asymptomatic, and too many people ignore their aches and pains. When prevention fails early detection provides the best chance of survival.

RE: Awesome work!
By gamerk2 on 7/19/2010 2:26:05 PM , Rating: 2
Well, we DO already have custom-made genetically engineered virus' avaliable to fight Cancer...assuming you can afford the multi-hundred billion costs, of course. So this type of technology isn't exactly new. Lets see how long it takes to get out of university and into actual use though...

But yeah, nonobots before I turn 40 please. :D

Just a lateral flow ELISA
By Riven98 on 7/20/2010 12:34:18 PM , Rating: 2
Really, this test is just a second generation lateral flow ELISA, the first generation of which are quite commonly used. The real advance here is the precise positioning of the antibodies so that the cells are triggered to release cytokines that are then detected.

When did flow replace the Western blot as the primary screen for HIV?

By Chemical Chris on 7/20/2010 4:27:16 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think they've used Western blots for quite awhile, as it is too time consuming/expensive; they are used to confirm positive test results from an ELISA, though (If possible, two methods are used to confirm a medical diagnosis/experimental result).
I agree that this is just a more advanced ELISA, with the majority of the innovation being the new antibodies which orient the cells correctly; so the 'beefy' work was designing/producing new antibodies, the rest is old-hat.
From the sound of the article, the best way to relate it to an existing product is the home pregnancy test. Previously you had to send samples away to a lab to be tested; now the ELISA is mass-produced, you pee on it and voila, test done, fast and cheap.
I would expect this tech to not really become over-the-counter, as false negatives still occur up to ~3months after infection, so the interpretation of the test should still be by a doctor (but can be done in the same visit, not have to wait for lab results).


By clovell on 7/19/2010 1:39:28 PM , Rating: 2
This is definitely a noteworthy achievement. Might also mention that Abbott recently developed the first direct testing method for measuring HIV-1 RNA levels. Typical testing examines the cytokines a la flow cytometry. It's more sensitive than current methods and costs about the same amount.

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