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Press Start: Lead an Empowered Life as a Clinical Laboratorian

New USB Stick Measures HIV

Published November 18, 2016 4:10 PM by Glen McDaniel

Science never stands still. I am particularly interested in the merging of technologies in the new era of the logarithmic growth of technology. For many decades science was fairly plodding and sometimes even static as research followed certain set rules and required a certain rigor to be considered credible and acceptable.

Scientists, engineers and even social scientists are joining forces to advance human knowledge. I love to read about those joint projects. Recent developments often involve the use of micro samples and use of cutting-edge technology originally developed for other areas such as communications.

One recent development that caught my attention is a USB stick that is able to detect HIV particles. This takes "lab on a chip" or "black box laboratory" to a new level. As someone who speaks a fair deal, I cannot live without my memory stick. I load my presentation, and bring them everywhere.

 A UK Biotechnology company called DNA Technology joined forces with bio-scientists at the University of London to develop a USB stick that acts a small HIV lab.

A single drop of blood is added to the stick, the pH is adjusted and an electrical signal is generated depending on the viral load detected in the sample. The signal can then be read and displayed on a computer or similar device. Analysis takes about 20 minutes.

Initially it is perceived that the application will be mostly for patients who are known to be HIV positive. This device will essentially indicate a viral load and suggest whether treatment needs to be adjusted or clinical intervention needs to be changed by an increasing viral load. At this point it is not intended as a screen for HIV. This detects viral particles and not HIV antibodies.

Conceivably patients could be in a clinic or even at home, rather than making a visit to the doctor or going to the laboratory and waiting several days for a result.

There are already biological sensors for glucose and other "simple" analytes. However this technology opens the door to auto-monitoring of many other diseases.  I am all in favor of self-monitoring or expanding access to those who might not otherwise be able to take advantage of traditional medical care.


What happens to the monthly blogs. I miss the insightful writing by Glen McDaniel. I have followed you for years sir. Do you no longer write for ADVANCE? I have used your articles for education, encouragement and to explain complex topics. I always look forward to your blogs and articles over the years.

If you no longer write, ADVANCE will be less valuable without you. We need to hear from you.

Thank you.

Miriam Timothy March 24, 2017 3:33 PM
New York NY

We are getting into the age of black boxes. The one thing that concerns me is that we are relinquishing authority to everyone else.

I am glad for the patients. But as pharmacists and nurses and dieticians an everyone take over  we lose status. Plus the service/interpretation they give is not always accurate.

I would like more balance.

Jeanine Taylor November 23, 2016 7:55 PM
Durham NC

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