Laboratory test results are important in making decisions regarding a patient's diagnosis and response to treatment. These tests often measure the biomarkers found in biological fluids such blood, urine, and saliva. Immunoassay is one type of laboratory test used to measure the level of biomarkers using specific antibodies. Microfluidics offer several advantages such as speed, small sample volume requirement, portability, integration, and automation. These advantages are motivating to develop microfluidic platforms of conventional laboratory tests. I have fabricated polymer microfluidic devices and developed immunoassays on-chip for potential cancer markers. Silicon template devices were fabricated using standard photolithographic techniques. The template design was transferred to a poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) piece by hot embossing and subsequently bonded to another PMMA piece with holes for reservoirs. I used these devices to perform microchip immunoaffinity electrophoresis to detect purified recombinant thymidine kinase 1 (TK1). Buffer with 1% methylcellulose acted as a dynamic coating that minimized nonspecific adsorption of protein and as sieving matrix that enabled separation of free antibody from antibody-TK1 complexes. Using this technique, I was able to detect TK1 concentration >80 nM and obtained separation results within 1 minute using a 5 mm effective separation length. Detection of endogenous TK1 in serum is difficult because TK1 is present at the pM range. I compared three different depletion methods to eliminate high abundance immunoglobulin and human serum albumin. Cibacron blue columns depleted abundant protein but also nonspecifically bound TK1. I found that ammonium sulfate precipitation and IgG/albumin immunoaffinity columns effectively depleted high abundance proteins. TK1 was salted out of the serum with saturated ammonium sulfate and still maintained activity. To integrate affinity columns in microfluidic devices, I have developed a fast and easy strategy for initial optimization of monolith affinity columns using bulk polymerization of multiple monolith solutions. The morphology, surface area, and porosity, were qualitatively assessed using scanning electron microscopy. This method decreased the time, effort, and resources compared to in situ optimization of monoliths in microfluidic devices. This strategy could be used when designing novel formulations of monolith columns. I have also integrated poly(ethylene glycol dimethacrylate-glycidyl methacrylate) monolith affinity columns in polymer microfluidic devices to demonstrate the feasibility of extracting human interleukin 8 (IL8), a cancer biomarker, from saliva. Initial results have shown that the affinity column (~3 mm) was successfully integrated into the devices without prior surface modification. Furthermore, anti-IL8 was immobilized on the surface of the monolith. Electrochromatograms showed that 1 ng/mL of IL8 can be detected when in buffer while 10 ng/mL was detected when IL8 was spiked in saliva. Overall, these findings can be used to further develop immunoassays in microfluidic platforms, especially for analyzing biological fluids.



College and Department

Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Chemistry and Biochemistry



Date Submitted


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microchip electrophoresis, microfluidics, electrochromatography, monolith, immunoaffinity