Development of portable infectious disease detector

A portable device similar to today's home pregnancy tests that can quickly detect the presence of infectious diseases, including HIV-AIDS and measles, as well as biological agents such as ricin and anthrax, is the object of a new joint university/industry research project.

Vanderbilt University's Institute for Integrative Biosystems Research and Education (VIIBRE) and Pria Diagnostics LLC, a privately held California company that specializes in miniaturized medical diagnostics, agreed to collaborate on the development before the holidays.

VIIBRE has spent the last three years developing the ability to measure the metabolism of small groups of cells and studying how they respond to drugs, toxins and pollutants. To do so, the interdisciplinary team has developed two basic technologies: special electrodes that can measure the concentrations of the chemicals that cells consume and excrete in extremely small volumes and the use of fluids flowing through microscopic channels to move and manipulate small numbers of cells reliably. In the process, the group has applied for more than 12 patents.

Meanwhile, Pria has developed a micro-optical fluorescence spectroscopy system and used it as the basis for a inexpensive male fertility detector that can be used in the home to measure sperm motility with an accuracy comparable to laboratory analyses.

"I'm thrilled at how well the VIIBRE and PRIA technologies mesh," says John P. Wikswo, professor of biomedical engineering, physiology and physics at Vanderbilt and director of VIIBRE. "We are already making rapid progress on prototyping portable instruments for clinical diagnosis and biodefense."

"Today the treatment for AIDS is very expensive and there is always a question about when to start and stop anti-retroviral therapy," says Pria's Chief Technology Officer Jason Pyle. "We are developing a device that we hope will allow medical professionals and HIV patients to manage their disease in a w

Contact: David F. Salisbury
Vanderbilt University

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