Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2017 02 06114(8) E1306-E1315 doi 10.1073/pnas.1621318114
Isolation and characterization of rare cells and molecules from a heterogeneous population is of critical importance in diagnosis of common lethal diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, HIV, and cancer. For the developing world, point-of-care (POC) diagnostics design must account for limited funds, modest public health infrastructure, and low power availability. To address these challenges, here we integrate microfluidics, electronics, and inkjet printing to build an ultra-low-cost, rapid, and miniaturized lab-on-a-chip (LOC) platform. This platform can perform label-free and rapid single-cell capture, efficient cellular manipulation, rare-cell isolation, selective analytical separation of biological species, sorting, concentration, positioning, enumeration, and characterization. The miniaturized format allows for small sample and reagent volumes. By keeping the electronics separate from microfluidic chips, the former can be reused and device lifetime is extended. Perhaps most notably, the device manufacturing is significantly less expensive, time-consuming, and complex than traditional LOC platforms, requiring only an inkjet printer rather than skilled personnel and clean-room facilities. Production only takes 20 min (vs. up to weeks) and $0.01-an unprecedented cost in clinical diagnostics. The platform works based on intrinsic physical characteristics of biomolecules (e.g., size and polarizability). We demonstrate biomedical applications and verify cell viability in our platform, whose multiplexing and integration of numerous steps and external analyses enhance its application in the clinic, including by nonspecialists. Through its massive cost reduction and usability we anticipate that our platform will enable greater access to diagnostic facilities in developed countries as well as POC diagnostics in resource-poor and developing countries.