HIV/AIDS is a widely known sexually transmitted disease with life-threatening consequences. Although sexually active people are all aware of the risks of acquiring this infection, only a few actually get tested. This is due to the high cost of simply diagnosing the disease. The treatment following the diagnosis is a different costly process. Therefore, many people chose to not undergo the test despite being exposed to the risks.
Currently, diagnosing HIV/AIDS requires hundreds of dollars, trained specialists and expensive devices.
Umer Hassan, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and core researcher for the Rutgers Global Health Institute, has recently come up with a new technology to diagnose HIV/AIDS. He has developed an innovative biosensor for AIDS diagnosis.
Hassan is the leader of a team that is credited for the development of biosensors with a point-of-care goal for countless issues regarding global health. Their main goal is to develop disposable biosensors, which possesse the features of being economical as well as handheld. These devices also aim to deliver results much quicker than conventional tests.
According to Hassan, just a drop of blood is sufficient to perform the test with biosensors. It can also display the results within a very short time, in less than 30 minutes. Hassan expects the cost of the devices to be less than $10 if they are successfully commercialized.
How does the biosensor work?
The HIV virus results in an immune deficient state, resulting in a reduction in the number of CD64 cells in the body. The biosensors contain a chip that has the capability to detect the number of CD64 cells in the body’s immune system.
It not only detects the decrease in the CD64 cells, but it can also quantify the number of CD64 cells. This feature of the biosensors enables them to be used as a therapeutic tool as well by monitoring the patient’s CD64 cells before and after treatment.
Hassan is a global health researcher, which is why he has taken crucial steps and put such an effort to target the issues inhibiting HIV diagnosis and management. If his endeavor becomes a success, he will significantly improve the morbidity and mortality associated with HIV/AIDS by reducing the costs and enhancing the convenience of HIV tests. The biosensors will benefit not only the people in the United States, but it will also have a positive impact on the global prevalence of HIV.
“There are 35 million people who are living with HIV,” Hassan said. “70 percent of these people live in Sub-Saharan Africa. There’s a very large need for inexpensive biosensors there.”
Hassan’s team has collaborated with researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to establish a startup with an aim to commercialize the biosensors. The project has already been funded with sizeable grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to produce a commercial prototype of the biosensor.
Hassan and his team have also taken huge steps to create similar biosensors for the timely diagnosis of sepsis.
“Even in the United States, more than a million cases (of sepsis) occur, and of those cases, 250,000 people die each year,” Hassan said. “That’s greater than the number of people dying of HIV/AIDS, prostate cancer and breast cancer combined.”
“Rutgers Global Health Institute particularly targets global health issues that have an impact all over the world,” he said. “Rutgers is a good place to be in order to make such biosensors.”