Single Molecule Detection : Microfluidic Automation and Digital Quantification
Abstract: Much of recent progress in medical research and diagnostics has been enabled through the advances in molecular analysis technologies, which now permit the detection and analysis of single molecules with high sensitivity and specificity. Assay sensitivity is fundamentally limited by the efficiency of the detection method used for read-out. Inefficient detection systems are usually compensated for by molecular amplification at the cost of elevated assay complexity.This thesis presents microfluidic automation and digital quantification of targeted nucleic acid detection methods based on padlock and selector probes and rolling circle amplification (RCA). In paper I, the highly sensitive, yet complex circle-to-circle amplification assay was automated on a digital microfluidic chip. In paper II, a new RCA product (RCP) sensing principle was developed based on resistive pulse sensing that allows label free digital RCP quantification. In paper III, a microfluidic chip for spatial RCP enrichment was developed, which enables the detection of RCPs with an unprecedented efficiency and allows for deeper analysis of enriched RCPs through next generation sequencing chemistry. In paper IV, a smart phone was converted into a multiplex fluorescent imaging device that enables imaging and quantification of RCPs on slides as well as within cells and tissues. KRAS point mutations were detected (i) in situ, directly in tumor tissue, and (ii) by targeted sequencing of extracted tumor DNA, imaged with the smart phone RCP imager. This thesis describes the building blocks required for the development of highly sensitive low-cost RCA-based nucleic acid analysis devices for utilization in research and diagnostics.
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