Since its discovery in 1983, incredible advances have been made in testing and treatments for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). Antiretroviral therapies, which reduces the virus’s ability to replicate, have helped to suppress the virus and slow the disease’s progression. By lowering a PLWHA’s viral load, it makes HIV/AIDS a more manageable disease. With all the advances though, HIV is still a global health concern with approximately 38 million PLWHA worldwide.
Challenges to global HIV/AIDS management includes having testing available to untested, high-risk populations, as well as helping PLWHA routinely test their viral load. Making viral load testing routine for PLWHA will help them better manage their disease and potential for transmission. To address this, Jeff Wang and a multi-disciplinary team of researchers were awarded $3 million by the National Institutes of Health to develop a diagnostic device for self-testing viral load.
The goal is for the device to be inexpensive, portable, user-friendly, and with a rapid testing time. Making this possible requires the team to miniaturize everything from the assays to the sample testing sizes. The team plans to use magnetofluidic technology, which manipulates magnetic particles for processing biofluid samples, and does not need the use of fluidic actuation instrumentation in the device. Once the design is completed, the team will test how well it performs with monitoring viral loads for PLWHA, and testing for acute infections in resource-limited areas.
Tza-Huei “Jeff” Wang is a core researcher in the Institute for NanoBioTechnology and professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Wang’s research primarily focuses on developing new technologies and methods to analyze diseases at the molecular scale. Some examples include identifying early cancer biomarkers, biomarkers for rare disease, drug-resistant infections, and rapid diagnostic testing for sexually transmitted diseases.
Story by Gina Wadas and posted on the INBT website.