Leshern Karamchand is a native of South Africa and a doctoral candidate in Chemical Biology at the University of Michigan. He investigates the application of aptamers as biosensing components to microfluidic biosensors. His research is aimed at developing a point-of-care (POC) aptasensor device capable of rapidly and accurately determining the absolute CD4+ T-lymphocyte counts of patients infected with HIV-1 from just a single droplet of blood specimen.
Aptamers are a class of synthetic single strand nucleic acids, either DNA or RNA that can be tailor-engineered using the in vitro chemical process, SELEX, to recognize and bind a broad range of targets ranging from individual atoms to whole cells. Unlike animal-derived antibodies, aptamers exhibit high chemical stability at ambient room temperature and the ability to undergo repetitive cycles of binding and recognition. Aptamers are therefore ideal biosensing components, particularly in application to POC devices intended for use in resource-poor regions where stable refrigeration is not possible.
Prior to his selection for the International Fulbright Science & Technology Award, Leshern received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Natal and Master’s degree from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. In addition to his graduate research, Leshern is concurrently enrolled in the Rackham Certificate Program in Nanobiology, which will afford him the necessary skills and interdisciplinary collaborations in nanobiotechnology to facilitate his research. Aside from his research, Leshern is also passionate about classical Indian music and art and is a sketch artist.