VirScan Reveals Viral History from a Single Drop of Blood

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 14, 2015

A patient’s viral history can be found in a single drop of blood.

Contributor: Stephen Elledge, PhD, is a principal investigator in the Division of Genetics at and Women’s Hospital (BWH).  Dr. Elledge has won international awards in past 2 yrs – on our home page now.

Researchers have developed a test that uses a single drop of blood to determine which of more than 1,000 different viruses currently infects or previously infected a person.

Using the new method, known as VirScan, researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School detected an average of 10 viral species per person during their study. The findings, published in Science (June 5, 2015), shed light on the relationship between the vast array of viruses that can infect humans (the human virome) and a person’s immunity. This insight, in turn, has significant implications for our understanding of immunology and patient care.

The research team found the sensitivity and precision of VirScan to be very similar to that of today’s standard blood tests. However, today’s standard blood tests can detect only one pathogen at a time and have not been developed to detect all viruses.

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Determining the Course of Medical Research – First Nominee

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 16, 2013

Today’s video and Q&A features our first finalist in the 2013 Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) BRIght Futures Prize competition, a research project from Utkan Demirci, PhD, MS.

Taking Control of Epilepsy (Video)

Utkan Demirci, PhD, MS, Division of Biomedical Engineering

What is your research project about?

Epilepsy is a medical condition that affects the brain and causes a person to have seizures. A seizure happens when nerve cells in the brain work abnormally, affecting consciousness or movement. Epilepsy affects 65 million people worldwide and 2.2 million people in the US, including about 60,000 people in Massachusetts. It is most common among the very young and the very old, although anyone can develop epilepsy at any age.

Experiencing seizures or their disabling side effects can severely limit educational achievements, employment prospects, and participation in all of life’s experiences. Seizures can even be life-threatening.

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