Single-bead arrays for fluorescence-based immunoassays on capillary-driven microfluidic chips
We report a concept for the simple fabrication of easy-to-use chips for immunoassays in the context of point-of-care diagnostics. The chip concept comprises mainly three features: (1) the efficient integration of reagents using beads functionalized with receptors, (2) the generation of capillary-driven liquid flows without using external pumps, and (3) a high-sensitivity detection of analytes using fluorescence microscopy. We fabricated prototype chips using dry etching of Si wafers. 4.5-μm-diameter beads were integrated into hexagonal arrays by sedimentation and removing the excess using a stream of water. We studied the effect of different parameters and showed that array occupancies from 30% to 50% can be achieved by pipetting a 250 nL droplet of 1% bead solution and allowing the beads sediment for 3 min. Chips with integrated beads were sealed using a 50-μm-thick dry-film resist laminated at 45 °C. Liquids pipetted to loading pads were autonomously pulled by capillary pumps at a rate of 0.35 nL s-1 for about 30 min. We studied ligand-receptor interactions and binding kinetics using time-lapse fluorescence microscopy and demonstrated a 5 pM limit of detection (LOD) for an anti-biotin immunoassay. As a clinically-relevant example, we implemented an immunoassay to detect prostate specific antigen (PSA) and showed an LOD of 108 fM (i.e. 3.6 pg mL-1). While a specific implementation is provided here for the detection of PSA, we believe that combining capillary-driven microfluidics with arrays of single beads and fluorescence readout to be very flexible and sufficiently sensitive for the detection of other clinically-relevant analytes.