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.