A new device intends to make diagnosing AIDS easier and more accessible for people in developing countries.
The instrument would eliminate the need for expensive equipment and highly trained staff, resources that are not available in many areas where the HIV epidemic is most severe.
HIV kills by destroying a particular type of disease-fighting white blood cells called CD4+ T lymphocytes. Full-blown AIDS sets in when patients’ CD4 counts fall below a critical level and they are unable to fight off infections. That’s when antiretroviral drugs are critical.
But counting CD4 cells requires a blood sample and a lab equipped to analyze it. In many areas hardest hit by the AIDS epidemic – much of sub-Saharan Africa, for example, “there is just no way to get the patient or the blood very easily to the lab,” said Rashid Bashir, head of the bioengineering department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Lab on a chip
So, Bashir and colleagues have developed a prototype “lab on a chip” with all the equipment and chemicals to do the job in a 3-centimeter-by-4-centimeter cartridge.
Scientists have discovered a new gene that may have the ability to prevent human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) from spreading once it enters the body, according to a study published in the journal Nature.
Researchers from King’s College London in the UK say the gene, called MX2, could lead to new effective and less toxic treatment against HIV – the virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
For the study, the researchers conducted experiments on human cells, in which they introduced the HIV virus to two different cell lines. One cell line had the MX2 gene “switched on,” while the other cell line had no MX2 expression.
On observing the effects, the researchers found that in the cells in which the MX2 gene was expressed, the HIV virus was unable to replicate, therefore stopping new viruses from being produced.
In the cell line in which the MX2 gene was switched off, the HIV virus replicated and spread.
In the back of a skid row community health center, a woman with teardrop tattoos under her eyes begins to tell her story.
To a circle of other women, she says she ran away from home and joined a gang at 13. She started injecting PCP, and as a teen spent time in jail. By 22, she worked as a prostitute. At 37, she was diagnosed with HIV.
Now 50, the woman known as Hilda tells the circle that the only time she took her HIV medication was when she was in jail. “Why?” someone asks. “I wanted to die,” she answers.
Welcome to a weekly support session sponsored by the Ladies of Diversity, a federally funded program that works to give HIV-positive homeless women of color a reason to stay connected to medical services. Leaders allowed the Los Angeles Times to attend one gathering on the condition that clients be identified only by their first names.
The organization aims to better understand the challenges that keep infected black and Latina women from connecting to HIV care, said Tina Henderson, an HIV/AIDS researcher for 20 years and the program manager of the Ladies of Diversity.
California is one of eight states where such a project has been given money by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration.
David was skeptical. It sounded too good to be true. A once-a-day pill that could help healthy people avoid HIV infection?
But David also knew he was at high risk because his partner was HIV-positive.
So after careful research, the 21-year-old Oakland resident decided to join an unusual program that will give the drug known as Truvada to more than 100 East Bay youths, along with safe-sex counseling and other sexual health services.
Those overseeing the program hope it can help solve a serious problem: The number of people nationwide who are newly infected with HIV, the virus that can cause AIDS, has held steady at about 50,000 annually in recent years after dropping sharply in the late 1980s, despite health professionals’ best efforts to tackle the problem.
“There is a degree of frustration — we don’t seem to be able to reduce the level of transmission,” said George Lemp, director of the University of California Office of the President’s HIV/AIDS Research Program.
“A lot of people felt that we needed more aggressive approaches,” he said.