Aman Russom, Associate Professor: School of Biotechnology at KTH Aman Russom, Associate Professor: School of Biotechnology at KTH

Eritrean scientist develops low cost technology to detect HIV

Aman Russom is an Associate Professor and senior lecturer of the School of Biotechnology at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. He was born 1976 in Asmara, Eritrea. He received his M. Sc. degree in Chemical Engineer with emphasis on Biotechnology in 2000 and his PhD in 2005 from KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden. Dr Russom then did his postdoc fellowship at Harvard Medical School between 2005-2008. In 2008 he returned back to Sweden, where he is currently heading the clinical microfluidics Lab, currently consisting of four PhD students and two postdocs, at the division of Proteomics and Nanobiotechnology at KTH. His current research is focused on applying engineering principles and technologies, especially micro-and nanotechnology, to clinical medicine.”

Professor Russom and a team of scientists from the School of Biotechnology at KTH in Stockholm modified a DVD player to perform blood tests, including a check for HIV. The scientist and his research team converted a commercial DVD drive into a laser scanning microscope that can analyse blood and perform cellular imaging with one-micrometre resolution.

The breakthrough creates the possibility of an inexpensive and simple-to-use tool that could have far-reaching benefits in health care in developing countries such as Eritrea. His innovation into laser-scanning microscopy technique has been featured by the journal Nature Photonics, The Royal Society of Chemistry Journal and the Wall Street Journal this month.

“With an ordinary DVD player, we have created a cheap analytical tool for DNA, RNA, proteins and even entire cells,” says Russom. “The so-called “Lab-on-DVD” technology makes it possible to complete an HIV test in just a few minutes.”

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In a proof of concept demonstration, the researchers collected cell-type CD4 + from blood and visualized it using the DVD reader technology, DVD LSM. Enumeration of these cells using flow cytometry is now standard in HIV testing, but the practice has been limited in developing countries. Russom says DVD-based technology will provide an attractive option in places like Africa and Asia.

The Lab-on-DVD reaps 30 years of research and development on optical storage technology to create an alternative to flow cytometry, the standard equipment for hospitals. Flow cytometry units can cost upwards of USD 30,000, excluding maintenance. By contrast, mass-produced Lab-on-DVD units could be made available for less than USD 200, as stated by the scientist.

“The low cost of the technology makes it suitable as a diagnostic and analytical tool in clinical practice close to the patient,” Russom says. “And because it delivers extremely fast analysis, the patient does not need to go home and wait for a response. They can get it right on the first visit to a doctor.”

The researchers are now working on extending the system to handle larger sample volumes so that low- concentration species such as circulating tumour cells can be analyzed or cancer detected.

“Primary tumors sheds cells into the blood stream, a process called metastasis, and these circulating tumor cells in the blood end up spreading to other organs and grow. These secondary tumor sites are responsible for over 90% of cancer related death – meaning it is not the primary tumor that end up killing but the ones spread through the blood stream.”, according to Russom. “In general, the earlier one detect cancer the better patient outcome. Hence, early detection of the so called “circulating tumor cells”, is expected to have huge impact on treatment of patients in the future.”

Since Russom’s DVD scanner has single cell image resolution, it is possible to detect a cancer cell in the background of billions other cells with his technology as long as you immobilize it on the surface of the DVD the Eritrean- born scientist told capitaleritrea news.

By Editorial Team

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