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Global Health Group

The focus of this research group is to design novel diagnostic tools for diseases of importance in Global Health, such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and typhoid fever. Although several diagnostic assays exist today for these diseases, these tools are either too expensive or require an efficient infrastructure that is not available in resource poor settings. Our goal is to develop point-of-care (POC) diagnostic devices that will enable the decentralized delivery of health care to those who need it. In recent years, our group has developed a microfluidics-based CD4+ T-cell counter, to aid in HIV/AIDS monitoring. Specifically, the microchip uses a cell affinity chromatography approach under differential shear flow to specifically isolate CD4+ T lymphocytes with high efficiency directly from 10 microlitres of unprocessed, unlabeled whole blood. This device is currently undergoing commercialization. In order to complement the CD4 counter, current efforts in the laboratory focus on the development of a device for HIV viral load determination from whole blood, which will serve in disease monitoring as well as infant diagnosis of HIV infection. In addition, in the past two years, we have significantly expanded our team and efforts to contribute to the development of tools to control the current tuberculosis epidemic. Representative project descriptions are provided below.

  • Through collaboration with the Harvard School of Public Health, we are using microfluidic channels to perform single-cell studies of M. tuberculosis growth and division, which are already shedding light into the mechanisms of drug tolerance during tuberculosis treatment.
  • Through collaboration with the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, we are also exploring the use of CD1b T-cells as biomarkers for tuberculosis infection, which could be used in the development of an immune response-based diagnostic for tuberculosis.
  • We are combining the use of novel microfluidic and nanotechnology platforms to develop a rapid and highly sensitive POC diagnostic for tuberculosis based on the detection of M. tuberculosis bacilli in patient sputa using a miniaturized magnetic resonance detector. In the near future, we are planning to our group studies to the diagnosis of typhoid fever.


 Representative Publications:

  • Chen GD, Fachin F, Fernandez-Suarez M, Wardle BL, Toner M. Nanoporous Elements in Microfluidics for Multiscale Manipulation of Bioparticles. Small 2011; Epub ahead of print.
  • Watkins NN, Sridhar S, Cheng X, Chen GD, Toner M, Rodriguez W, Bashir R. A microfabricated electrical differential counter for the selective enumeration of CD4+ T lymphocytes. Lab Chip 2011; 11(8): 1437-47.
  • Chen GD, Alberts CJ, Rodriguez W, & Toner M. Concentration and Purification of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Virions by Microfluidic Separation of Superparamagnetic Nanoparticles. Anal Chem 2010; 82(2): 723-728.
  • Cheng X, Gupta A, Chen C, Tompkins RG, Rodriguez W, Toner M. Enhancing the performance of a point-of-care CD4+ T-cell counting microchip through monocyte depletion for HIV/AIDS diagnostics. Lab Chip 2009; 9: 1357-1364.
  • Cheng X, Irimia D, Dixon M, Ziperstein JC, Demirci U, Zamir L, Tompkins RG, Toner M, Rodriguez WR. A microchip approach for practical label-free CD4+ T-cell counting of HIV-infected subjects in resource-poor settings. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr 2007; 45(3): 257-61.

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