1024 samples analysed on a single chip


Researchers in Switzerland have developed a microfluidic platform able to measure four protein biomarkers in over 1000 blood samples on a single microfluidic chip. With a dramatic reduction in reagent consumption, time and cost, this new high-throughput technology could make early disease diagnosis more affordable.

Many clinical diagnostic tests measure the amount of a specific protein in a patient’s blood. If the levels of this protein are abnormal it is often an indicator for a disease. Currently these tests are very expensive and time-consuming and are only used once a certain condition is suspected, so the patient is already showing symptoms.

Jose Garcia-Cordero and Sebastian Maerkl at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne hope to change this with their new microfluidic platform capable of measuring protein biomarkers from just 5nL of human blood with comparable results to a conventional enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), which typically uses a 50μL sample volume. The platform uses a microspotting technique to deliver a large number of blood samples to the chip combined with a microfluidic circuit that runs four parallel immunoassays.

The microfluidic device can perform over 4000 disease biomarker assays in a single run

‘The throughput of our device is roughly 10–100 times that of current microfluidic platforms with an estimated reagent cost of US$ 0.1 per chip,’ says Maerkl. ‘By drastically reducing the cost of diagnostic tests, we hope that everyone will be able to measure a number of biomarkers on a continuous basis, allowing people to take either preventive measures or to seek early treatment for diseases such as cancer.’

Michele Zagnoni, an expert in microfluidic techniques for cancer research at the University of Strathclyde in the UK, commends the ‘outstanding increase in analytical throughput’ and adds that ‘the choice of producing a microfluidic device which can be interfaced with robotic dispensers is an appealing one for pharmaceutical companies, offering a technology that can be easily integrated with existing industrial instrumentation and procedures.’

While their current platform is based on fluorescence to quantify biomarker levels, Maerkl hopes to move to an electronic readout to make smaller and cheaper point-of-care instruments.


Related Content

MEDIC to kick-start personalised medicine revolution

27 November 2013 Research

news image

Sensor will continuously monitor drug concentrations in real time letting doctors tailor treatments to the patient

Diagnosing diseases with CDs

25 February 2011 News Archive

news image

A microfluidic device has been built into a compact disc for use in a personal computer to analyse cells

Most Commented

How to print a crystal in 3D

17 April 2014 Research

news image

Rather than looking at a crystal on a screen, print it out and hold it in your hand

Dinosaur mass extinction may have been triggered by acid rain

11 March 2014 Research

news image

Asteroid impact could have produced enough sulfur trioxide to dramatically lower ocean pH