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Microfiber Electrofluidics for Integrated Molecular Diagnostics

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - iMDx (Microfiber Electrofluidics for Integrated Molecular Diagnostics)

Reporting period: 2019-02-01 to 2020-07-31

Diagnosis of an increasing number of diseases (such as HIV, Ebola and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and most recently the Covid-19 coronavirus) rely on centralized laboratories with specialized instruments and skilled personnel. This type of clinical analysis with long lead times and high cost is inappropriate for point of care diagnostics Portable, automated, and disposable devices with integrated molecular diagnostics could solve this problem. Such devices, however, basically do not exist today.
This research program will develop materials, methods, and techniques to enable portable integrated molecular diagnostics devices that are disposable, low cost, and that can detect a broad range of diseases using DNA amplification.

The importance of this project for society has never been more obvious, as we are in the middle of the biggest pandemic of the century. If nucleic acid tests had already been democratized it would have had a major effect on the control and spread of COVID-19.

This project has three overall objectives:

1. To develop new types of test platform which rely on paper and textiles, so that all the steps of nucleic acid tests can be integrated using high throughout printing techniques
2. To develop various techniques for sample preparation, DNA amplification and DNA detection which can be integrated into the test platform.
3. To develop cheap, portable open-source electronic devices that are capable of automating and controlling the integrated nucleic acid tests
So far int this project we have made the following advances:
1. Repurposed various textile as well as printed circuit boards so that they can be used as a platform in the realm of biosensing and specifically DNA detection. The utilization of PCB, and textiles together with paper enables numerous possibilities for the future development of point of care diagnostics devices.
2. Developed novel electrochemical readout techniques for performing DNA amplification and detecting it digitally. We have shown applied this to both PCR and isothermal amplification techniques for bacteria (both gram-positive and negative), and we are currently evaluating this technique for Viral DNA, especially for the COVID-19 viral RNA.
3. Developed sample preparation techniques to lyse bacterial cells using paper, as well as electronic textiles.
4. Developed prototypes for integrating PCR thermal cycles and electroanalytical devices that are open source, and low cost.
Our progress with the repurposing of textiles and printed circuit boards for the implementation of advanced biosensors has so far been very sucessfull. We expect at the end of this project to present a comprehensive set of tools for the implementation of portable nucleic acid tests, and more importantly disseminate our findings in such a way as to enable a more rapid development of this field by others in the future.
A paper-based DNA testing for possible use as a self-administered DNA test, such as COVID-19 testing