Automating Quantum Dot Barcode Assays Using Microfluidics and Magnetism for the Development of a Point-of-Care Device

Yali Gao, Albert WY Lam, Warren CW Chan

ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2013, 5, 8, 2853–2860 | DOI: 10.1021/am302633h


The impact of detecting multiple infectious diseases simultaneously at point-of-care with good sensitivity, specificity, and reproducibility would be enormous for containing the spread of diseases in both resource-limited and rich countries. Many barcoding technologies have been introduced for addressing this need as barcodes can be applied to detecting thousands of genetic and protein biomarkers simultaneously. However, the assay process is not automated and is tedious and requires skilled technicians. Barcoding technology is currently limited to use in resource-rich settings. Here we used magnetism and microfluidics technology to automate the multiple steps in a quantum dot barcode assay. The quantum dot-barcoded microbeads are sequentially (a) introduced into the chip, (b) magnetically moved to a stream containing target molecules, (c) moved back to the original stream containing secondary probes, (d) washed, and (e) finally aligned for detection. The assay requires 20 min, has a limit of detection of 1.2 nM, and can detect genetic targets for HIV, hepatitis B, and syphilis. This study provides a simple strategy to automate the entire barcode assay process and moves barcoding technologies one step closer to point-of-care applications.