Tag Archives: technology

HIV Testing on a USB Stick!

This USB stick can measure how much HIV is in the bloodstream.

This USB stick can measure how much HIV is in the bloodstream.

Scientists have developed a type of HIV test on a USB stick.

The device, created by scientists at Imperial College London and DNA Electronics, uses a drop of blood to detect HIV, and then creates an electrical signal that can be read by a computer, laptop or handheld device.  The disposable test could be used for HIV patients to monitor their own treatment.

Story via Imperial College London

Furthermore, the technology could enable patients with HIV to be managed more effectively in remote locations.

New research, published in the journal Scientific Reports, shows the device is not only very accurate, but can produce a result in under 30 minutes.

The new technology monitors the amount of virus in the bloodstream. This is crucial to monitoring a patient’s treatment.

The current treatment for HIV, called anti-retroviral treatment, reduces virus levels to near zero.

However, in some cases the medication may stop working – perhaps because the HIV virus has developed resistance to the drugs. The first indication of this would be a rise in virus levels in the bloodstream.

Furthermore, regularly monitoring of viral levels enables healthcare teams to check a patient is taking their medication. Stopping medication fuels HIV drug-resistance, which is an emerging global problem.

Viral levels cannot be detected by routine HIV tests which use antibodies, as these can only tell whether a person has been infected.

MONITORING VIRAL LOAD IS CRUCIAL

Dr Graham Cooke, senior author of the research from the Department of Medicine at Imperial explained: “HIV treatment has dramatically improved over the last 20 years – to the point that many diagnosed with the infection now have a normal life expectancy.

“However, monitoring viral load is crucial to the success of HIV treatment. At the moment, testing often requires costly and complex equipment that can take a couple of days to produce a result. We have taken the job done by this equipment, which is the size of a large photocopier, and shrunk it down to a USB chip.”

Dr Cooke added that this technology, although in the early stages, could allow patients to regularly monitor their virus levels in much the same way that people with diabetes check their blood sugar levels.

The technology could be particularly powerful in remote regions in sub-Saharan Africa, which may not have easy access to testing facilities. Finding out quickly if a patient, particularly a baby, is infected with the virus is crucial to their long term health and survival.

hivusb2

The device, which uses a mobile phone chip, just needs small sample of blood. This is placed onto a spot on the USB stick. If any HIV virus is present in the sample, this triggers a change in acidity which the chip transforms into an electrical signal. This is sent to the USB stick, which produces the result in a programme on a computer or electronic device.

In the latest research, the technology tested 991 blood samples with 95 per cent accuracy. The average time to produce a result was 20.8 minutes.

The team are also investigating whether the device can be used to test for other viruses such as hepatitis. The technology was developed in conjunction with the Imperial spinout company DNA Electronics which is using the same technology to develop a device for detecting bacterial and fungal sepsis and antibiotic resistance.

Professor Chris Toumazou, DNAe’s Founder, Executive Chairman and Regius Professor at the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Imperial added: “This is a great example of how this new analysis technology has the potential to transform how patients with HIV are treated by providing a fast, accurate and portable solution. At DNAe we are already applying this highly adaptable technology to address significant global threats to health, where treatment is time-critical and needs to be right first time.”

The research was funded by the National Institute for Health Research Imperial Biomedical Research Centre

“Novel pH sensing semiconductor for point-of-care detection of HIV-1 viremia” by R. Gurrala et al is published in Scientific Reports

See the press release of this article

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Announcement! – A new look for our “Well for Living Website”

W4L1

It’s been over 3 years since LASS launched Well for Living, our Social Enterprise, and in that time, we’ve been busy behind the scenes, bringing people together and making connections to bring an efficient service for community and personal support, along with products and services.

What a journey it’s been!  Well for Living originated from LASS  and has grown into an independent social enterprise growing in clientèle every month. They’ve refocused on how they can best use the internet to provide an efficient service and just recently, redesigned the entire look and feel to their website (www.wellforliving.co.uk), focusing on combining the services they use to provide ease-of-use and an exceptional user experience. It’s an exciting time for them at Well for Living, we wish them the best of luck and we all hope you enjoy the new look!

Well for Living, is a community support agency offering a range of services to individuals such as personal support services which can help with your grocery shopping or domestic tasks like cleaning, laundry or gardening.  They can also provide an assistant to accompany you on outings and trips.

Well for Living also engage in projects to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being, they provide community support services providing catering, training or consultancy services to the wider community.

Well for Living understand that independence is important, and their service reflects individual choice, needs, expectations and hopes.  All Well for Living services are underpinned by the well-trained staff that understand the promotion of independence through a safe, well-managed service.

Well for Living emerged from LASS, we are  a non-profit Health & Social Care voluntary organisation who have been advocating and advising for over 25 years in many matters pertaining to health and wellbeing.

We’d love for you to keep up to date with Well for Living by either following their new blog or by following them on @WellforLiving and of course, please feel free to share this information.

www.wellforliving.co.uk

W4L2

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Imagine a world where HIV can’t replicate, then start believing!

HIV capsid

The following article provides fascinating reading on the latest published research on the structure of the HIV virus itself.  Be sure to watch the video and follow up on the references at the end of the article for more information.  Excited? – We are!

There’s no easy answer for HIV; the virus uses our own immune cells to its advantage and mutates readily to shrug off round after round of anti-retrovirals. But thanks to the efforts researchers from the University of Illinois and some heavy-duty number crunching from one of the world’s fastest petaflop supercomputers, we may be able to stop HIV right in its tracks.

The latest line of attack against HIV targets its viral casing (or capsid). Capsids lie between the virus’s spherical outer coat, a .1 micron diameter, lipid-based layer known as the viral envelope, and a bullet-shaped inner coat known as the viral core that contains the strands of HIV RNA. Capsids comprise 2,000 copies of the viral protein, p24, arranged in a lattice structure (a rough insight gleaned only from years of cryo-electron microscopy, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, cryo-EM tomography, and X-ray crystallography work). The capsid is responsible for protecting the RNA load, disabling the host’s immune system, and delivering the RNA into new cells. In other words: It’s the evil mastermind.

The lattice protein structure allows the capsid to open and close like a Hoberman Sphere.

As Dr Peijun Zhang, project lead and associate professor in structural biology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine explained to the BBC:

The capsid is critically important for HIV replication, so knowing its structure in detail could lead us to new drugs that can treat or prevent the infection. The capsid has to remain intact to protect the HIV genome and get it into the human cell, but once inside, it has to come apart to release its content so that the virus can replicate. Developing drugs that cause capsid dysfunction by preventing its assembly or disassembly might stop the virus from reproducing.

But until very recently, the precise structure—how the thousands of copies of p24 actually meshed together—remained a mystery. The capsid’s (relatively) large size, non-symmetric shape, protein structure has stumped researchers’ attempts to effectively model it. Earlier research had revealed that the p24 arranged itself in either a pentagon or hexagon shape as part of the capsid structure, but how many of each and how the pieces fit together remained out of reach because science simply didn’t have the computational prowess to model this incredibly complex subatomic structure in atomic-level detail.

This problem required a petaflop-level supercomputer to solve, a class of machine that has only recently become readily available. The team turned to National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and its resident supercomputer, Blue Waters.

The team fed electron microscopy data collected in lab experiments conducted at the University of Pittsburgh and Vanderbilt University into Blue Waters and let the $108 million, 11.5 petaflop machine do its thing: Crunch massive amounts of information with its 49,000 AMD CPUs. Blue Waters can handle one quadrillion floating point operations every second, so stitching together 1,300 proteins into an oblong molecular soccer ball was no sweat.

The team developed a novel shaping algorithm for the project, dubbed molecular dynamic flexible fitting.

“You basically simulate the physical characteristics and behavior of large biological molecules, but you also incorporate the data into the simulation so that the model actually drives itself toward agreement with the data,”

Said Professor Klaus Schulten of the University of Illinois in a press release.

“This is a big structure, one of the biggest structures ever solved,” Schulten continued. “It was very clear that it would require a huge amount of simulation — the largest simulation ever published — involving 64 million atoms.”

The team revealed the complete capsid structure in a Nature report yesterday:

The mature human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1) capsid is best described by a ‘fullerene cone’ model, in which hexamers of the capsid protein are linked to form a hexagonal surface lattice that is closed by incorporating 12 capsid-protein pentamers.

In all, the HIV capsid requires 216 protein hexagons and 12 protein pentagons to operate—arranged exactly as the predictive models said they would be. The new discovery reveals a stunningly versatile protein in p24. The protein itself is identical whether it’s shaped into a pentagon or a hexagon, only the attachment sites between p24 proteins varies between shapes. How that works remains a mystery.

“How can a single type of protein form something as varied as this thing? The protein has to be inherently flexible,” said Schulten.

New questions aside, this breakthrough illustrates precisely how the capsid works and how scientists can best attack that function to disrupt the virus’ ability to replicate. By exploiting the capsid’s structure, researchers theoretically could deliver a molecular padlock that prevents the viral core from opening and the virus from spreading. This discovery could lead to an entirely new suite of treatment alternatives and could finally outpace HIV’s ability to rapidly evolve resistance to current enzyme-based medications.

“The big problem with HIV is that it evolves so quickly that any drug you use you get drug resistance which is why we use a multi-drug cocktail,”

Professor Simon Lovell, a structural biologist at the University of Manchester, said.

“This is another target, another thing we can go after to develop a new class of drugs to work alongside the existing class.”

It’s only a matter of time until HIV goes the way of polio. And it’s thanks in no small part to one beast of a computer.

Read on for more information:

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Steve Jobs and HIV Apps for iOS

Steve Jobs was an extraordinary man. He has left his mark on four industries: personal computers with Apple II and Macintosh, music with iPod and iTunes, phone with iPhone, and animation with Pixar.  With no college education, he managed to build an empire and became a multi-millionaire in a few years. He was is now widely acknowledged as one the world’s most eminent business executives and an unrivalled visionary. He has, quite literally changed millions of lives by making technology easy-to-use, exciting and beautiful. Steve Jobs announced he was suffering from pancreatic cancer in 2004 and on Wednesday, 5th October died at his home. His death was announced by Apple.

One of his creations is the mobile platform iOS which can be found on iPod, iPhone and iPad. Mobile computing has revolutionised the way we use our mobile phones. Allowing us to do much of what can be achieved on a laptop on the move. If it weren’t for Steve Jobs many of the advanced mobile operating systems would have taken much longer to create.

To celebrate the life of Steve Jobs and the developments he pushed forward, we share with you 3 iOS apps which may be use for individuals living with HIV.

iChart

Use this application to search for potential drug-drug interactions between anti-HIV drugs and other medications an HIV+ patient may be taking. Results are presented as a “Traffic Light” system (red, amber, green) to indicate the recommendation. A brief summary of the interaction is given, along with a grading of the quality of evidence (very low, low, moderate, high). The application is available free of charge and has been developed by the HIV Pharmacology Group at the University of Liverpool through support from MSD, the Elton John AIDS Foundation and Janssen

PozTracker

PozTracker is simple and secure health management tool for people living with HIV/ AIDS. It is designed to help you stay on track with your medication, record your test results & monitor your progress.

HIV iConference

HIV iConference puts HIV/AIDS conferences in the palm of your hand. Within hours of a national meeting or international conference, HIV iConference brings breaking news, clinical trial results, abstracts, expert commentary, and interactive meeting features right to your iPhone. Access same- or next-day content through a user-friendly interface. Follow program discussions. Archive relevant meeting highlights. All that—and earn CME credit, too. HIV iConference coverage is selected and edited by renowned faculty who share their expert perspective on the clinical implications of breaking results. They’ll put you up-to-speed with new knowledge and ready to translate relevant clinical findings to patient care.

Do you know of any more we could include in the list? – Let us know in the comments below

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Information about the effort and influence surrounding HIV/AIDS prominent people is available here.