The viral load of an HIV patient is used to determine the effectiveness of a treatment and the progression of the patient's disease, but the necessary equipment to monitor patients' viral loads is too expensive for developing countries. So researchers at Caltech developed a new microfluidic chip that makes it possible to measure viral load in the field quickly and cheaply, reports Technology Review's Courtney Humphries. The chip uses a digital PCR approach — a blood sample is divided among several tiny wells and the molecules are then amplified to provide a yes-or-no viral load signal in each well, Humphries says. The chip could also be used to test for various diseases, the researchers add, and ultimately, they hope to improve the chip so that it can handle all stages of PCR preparation and analysis, instead of relying on other devices for those steps.
Viral Load Measurements Made Easier
Oct 21, 2011