Automated Droplet-Based Microfluidic Platform for Multiplexed Analysis of Biochemical Markers in Small Volumes

Diana F. Cedillo-Alcantar, Yong Duk Han, Jonghoon Choi, Jose L. Garcia-Cordero, Alexander Revzin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The ability to detect multiple analytes in a small sample volume has significance for numerous areas of research, including organs-on-chip, small animal experiments, and neonatology. The objective of this study was to develop an automated microfluidics platform for multiplexed detection of analytes in microliter sample volumes. This platform employed computer-controlled microvalves to create laminar co-flows of sample and assay reagent solutions. It also contained valve-regulated cross-junction for discretizing sample/reagent mixtures into water-in-oil droplets. Microfluidic automation allowed us to control parameters related to frequency of droplet generation and the number of droplets of the same composition, as well as the size of droplets. Each droplet represented an individual enzymatic assay carried out in a sub-nanoliter (0.8 nL) volume reactor. An enzymatic reaction involving target analyte and assay reagents produced colorimetric or fluorescent signals in droplets. Importantly, intensity of optical signal was proportional to the concentration of analyte in question. This microfluidic bioanalysis platform was used in conjunction with commercial "mix-detect" assays for glucose, total bile acids, and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH). After characterizing these assays individually, we demonstrated sensitive multiplexed detection of three analytes from as little as 3 μL. In fact, this volume was sufficient to generate multiple repeat droplets for each of the three biochemical assays as well as positive control droplets, confirming the quality of assay reagents and negative control droplets to help with background subtraction. One potential application for this microfluidic bioanalysis platform involves sampling cell-conditioned media in organ-on-chip devices. To highlight this application, hepatocyte spheroids were established in microfluidic devices, injured on-chip by exposure to lipotoxic agent (palmitate), and then connected to the bioanalysis module for daily monitoring of changes in cytotoxicity (LDH), energy metabolism (glucose), and liver function (total bile acids). Microfluidic in-droplet assays revealed increased levels of LDH as well as reduction in bile acid synthesis - results that were consistent with hepatic injury. Importantly, these experiments highlighted the fact that in-droplet assays were sufficiently sensitive to detect changes in functional output of a relatively small (â100) number of hepatocyte spheroids cultured in a microfluidic device. Moving forward, we foresee increasing the multiplexing capability of this technology and applying this platform to other biological/medical scenarios where detection of multiple analytes from a small sample volume is desired.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5133-5141
Number of pages9
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 16 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry


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