A Vertically Oriented Passive Microfluidic Device for Automated Point-Of-Care Testing Directly from Complex Samples

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2026-02-07

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2023

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Detection and quantification of biomarkers directly from complex clinical specimens is desired and often required by healthcare professionals for the effective diagnosis and screening of disease, and for general patient care. Current methodologies to accomplish this task have critical shortcomings. Laboratory immunoassays, most notably enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) require extensive clinical infrastructure and complex user intervention steps to generate results and often are accompanied by a lengthy time-to-result. Conversely, available point-of-care (POC) diagnostic solutions, most notably available lateral flow immunoassays (LFIAs), often struggle with sensitivity and specificity in complex fluids, lack quantitative output and are not easily multiplexed. In this dissertation I will discuss the design, fabrication, testing, and refinement of an all-in-one fluorescence microarray integrated into a passive microfluidic fluid handling system to create a versatile and automated POC platform that can detect biomarkers from complex samples for disease management with the relative ease-of-use of an LFIA and the performance of a laboratory-grade test. The platform is driven by capillary and gravitational forces and automates all intervention steps after the addition of the sample and running buffer at the start of testing. The microfluidic cassette is built on a (poly(oligo(ethylene glycol) methyl ether methacrylate) (POEGMA) polymer brush which imparts two key functionalities, (1) it eliminates cellular and protein binding, and when combined with the vertical orientation of the microfluidic cassette prevents settling of debris during all assay steps. This allows for impressive sensitivities and specificities to be obtained from samples as complex as undiluted whole blood even when relying on gentle capillary and hydrostatic pressures for cassette operation. (2) Paradoxically, printed biorecognition elements can be stably and non-covalently immobilized into the POEGMA allowing for all reagents needed to conduct a sandwich immunoassay in a single step to be easily inkjet printed as spatially discrete spots into the POEGMA brush, which also stabilizes them at room temperature. Additionally, the microfluidic cassette is compatible with the “D4Scope” a handheld fluorescence detector that can quantify the output of the microfluidic cassette in seconds at the POC and is the only piece of auxiliary equipment required to operate the test.

This dissertation discusses early cassette prototypes and characterizes the performance of major device iterations (Chapter 2) before moving into three clinical applications of the cassette. First, a multiplexed serological test to detect antibodies against different proteins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was developed (Chapter 3). Second, a multiplexed COVID-19 diagnostic test that simultaneously differentiates which variant you are infected with was developed (Chapter 4). Third, a sensitive fungal infection test for the diagnosis of talaromycosis was developed (Chapter 5). Finally, a rapidly iterative yet highly scalable injection molding fabrication process flow was created and characterized to improve performance and translatability of the cassette (Chapter 6).

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Kinnamon, David Stanley (2023). A Vertically Oriented Passive Microfluidic Device for Automated Point-Of-Care Testing Directly from Complex Samples. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/30258.

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