The global health group at the BMRC focuses on applying microfludic technologies to infectious diseases research. This group is comprised of collaborations with tuberculosis and malaria research groups from the Harvard School of Public Health, Tufts University and Daktari Diagnostic (http://www.daktaridx.com), a startup venture focusing on medical diagnostic within resource limited settings. Current research efforts within the global health group centers around developing new diagnostic platforms and understanding cell biology at the single cell level.
Developing countries have limited resources and lack facilities necessary to accurately diagnose life-threatening infectious diseases. To address these challenges, the global health group is motivated to develop point of care (POC) technologies for the rapid identification of targeted diseases. Work led by Dr. Bill Rodriguez and Dr. Xuanhon Cheng set the foundation for Daktari Diagnostic's CD4+ monitoring technology. Also, recent collaboration with Professors Sarah Fortune (HSPH) and Ralph Weissleder (MGH) produced a sensitive nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) platform for the identification of Mtb nucleic acid from TB patient sputum.
Microfluidic devices have facilitated novel biological understanding of agents responsible for infectious diseases. Recent interest within the global health group focuses on understanding cell responses to induced stress at the single cell level. Work led by Drs. Bree Aldridge (Tufts University/HSPH) and Marta Fernandez Suarez (BMRC) through collaborations with the Fortune lab have shed light on asymmetric growth pattern in M.tb and these cells' responses to drug treatment. Current collaboration with Professor Matthias Marti (HSPH) uses microfluidic devices to monitor the effects of malaria microparticles on neutrophil migrations and the growth trends of individual malaria parasites.
Fungal Infection Diagnostics
Current methodology for fungal infection diagnostics requires the growth of fungi from collected biological specimens, a time consuming process that significantly hinders the treatment of patients. Mortality rates among patients with systemic fungal infections can be 35-65% and as high as 100% within certain populations. Early diagnosis is the single most important intervention to decrease the dramatic rates of morbidity and mortality. Unfortunately, fungal diagnostics are in an early stage and there is a worldwide need for improved facile and efficient means to diagnose infections. From a global perspective, the development of new diagnostic methods must account for the challenges of working in an environment with limited resources. By rapidly isolating fungi from blood at the point-of-care, rather than growing them, our goal is to be able to use the retrieved cells for diagnostics and therefore diminish the time to achieve an appropriate treatment. Using our experience with microfluidic techniques of isolating rare cells, we will create a system of integrated devices which will be able to diagnosis a fungal infection within two hours and determine the species of fungus for more personalized medical treatment in less than a day.
|A: C. albicans captured on the HBChip.
|B: Micrograph of a fungal cell on the HBChip and stained with phalloidin and calcofluor white.