Friday, November 04, 2005

Handheld Puts AIDS Fight in Field (Wired News)

By Courtney Barry

A new HIV test the size of a credit card promises to diagnose the disease in minutes rather than weeks, and could be deployed in sub-Saharan Africa as early as next year.

The chip array circle shows the heart of the biochip wherein the sample collection and processing is done within a microfaricated structure.The optics that are used to count the cells using the CD4 system.Whole blood (top) and processed blood (bottom). The processed blood is stained and then cells are counted to yield immune function testing.Prototype for the CD4 analyzer and biochip sensor.

The device could solve one of the vexing problems of AIDS treatment in underdeveloped countries, where patients are not within easy reach of medical facilities. By providing an on-the-spot diagnosis, doctors hope to close the gap between test and treatment, and prevent known cases from slipping through the cracks.

The technology is similar to "blending digital camera technology with the brains of a Palm Pilot," says Dr. Bruce Walker, director of AIDS research at Harvard Medical School. Walker is part of a team of scientists at Harvard and the University of Texas at Austin who developed the sensor system. In tests, it has detected the amount of CD4 cells in the blood in as little as 10 minutes. The CD4 count indicates the stage of HIV in a patient, and helps doctors determine the best treatment and how much of it to administer. (more...)