‘Lab-on-a-Chip’ Graduated to ‘ELISA-on-a-Chip’ with the Help of Engineers

Team of engineers and scientists at Rutgers University have developed ‘lab-on-a-chip’ technology to potentially replace expensive conventional benchtop assay laboratory tests—hence, ‘ELISA-on-a-chip’—to aid in diagnosing and treating a wide array of medical conditions, including HIV, Lyme disease, and syphilis.

Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) is a common “wet-laboratory” technique that uses large amounts of bodily fluids to analyze proteins (antigens or antibodies) to determine its concentration. Apart from requiring a relatively large volume of blood sample, the ELISA method utilizes expensive chemicals and skilled technicians who have to mix the fluids and chemicals by hand, making any diagnostic test run by the technique laborious and costly.

ELISA-on-a-chip uses microfluidics technology that allows the device to use 90 percent less body fluid sample as well as one-tenth the volume of chemicals used to analyze the sample than its traditional counterpart, without compromising the accuracy and sensitivity of the results. One ‘lab-on-a-chip’ can simultaneously analyze 32 samples and measure widely varying concentrations of up to six proteins in a sample.

Apart from cutting costs (chemicals used in a standard multiplex immunoassay runs approximately $1500), animal research that halted due to lack of sufficient sample can now be resumed. A miniscule amount of cerebrospinal fluid is required in comparison to the traditional benchtop assay in order to further study central nervous system disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease and spinal cord injury. Similarly, only small samples of synovial fluid are necessary to delve into possible treatments for autoimmune joint diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Currently, the research team is exploring potential commercial applications for ELISA-on-a-chip while continually conducting large-scale controlled studies to discover other potential uses of their ‘lab-on-a-chip’ technology.

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