Big step in rapid diagnostics

The high-tech Flinders University vortex fluidic device has been used to test for infectious diseases such as flu and COVID-19 within five minutes.

The speedy high-tech method of inexpensive, accurate and high-throughput protein biomarker assay testing is being touted as a much-needed development in point-of-care (PoC) testing, say US and Flinders University researchers who specialise in ‘green’ vortex fluidic device (VFD) medical applications.

Professor Gregory W Weiss’s lab is part of UCI’s Departments of Chemistry, Pharmaceutical Science and Molecular Biology and Biochemistry.

The new method – using the revolutionary VFD developed by Flinders University – can be readily scaled up to test hundreds and ‘potentially thousands’ of proteins in one assay in less than 5 minutes, says senior researcher University of California, Irvine Professor Gregory Weiss, who is a US leader in VFD experiments and applications.

“Most importantly, the data produced can be accurately read with a cell phone camera – immediately addressing the gap between development and implementation of biomarker-based precision medicine,” he says.

While many costly tests can take upwards of 48-72 hours, on-the-spot tests such as this can lead to accurate diagnosis and early commencement of important drug treatments and reduction of wrong medications.

An accessible universal solution to offer rapid personalised mobile testing for infectious diseases – or diagnosis and delivery of targeted treatments for other diseases even in remote areas – has so far been out of reach.

Professor Colin Raston and Dr Xuan Luo with a VFD at Flinders University Institute of Nanoscale Science and Technology.

“The extreme disparity between technologically lagging and advanced settings directly impacts disease mortality and morbidity, particularly for infectious diseases,” says first author Emily Sanders.

Flinders University co-authors Dr Xuan Luo and Professor Colin Raston say the novel test could help to deliver low-cost diagnostics to resource-limited areas for broad deployment of precision medicine in the field.

In the assessment published in international chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie, the new method, labelled VFD-accelerated immoblot assay (VAIA), was compared and found superior to other PoC biomarker-based tests currently in use.

Not only was the processing faster and accurate, it sliced up to 70% off the cost of sometimes toxic reagents. While many immunoblot assays are used to detect certain diseases, many are not highly sensitive and complex to use – even for technicians in a laboratory or clinical setting.

In contrast the VAIA was found to improve conventional processing time from hours to less than 5 minutes, using three major immunoassay formats with purified proteins and biofluids.

First author Emily C Sanders from UCI.

Under-5-Minute Immunoblot Assays by Vortex Fluidic Device Acceleration’ (2022) by Emily C Sanders, Sanjana R Sen, Aidan A Gelston, Alicia M Santos, Xuan Luo, Keertna Bhuvan, Derek Y Tang, Colin L Raston and Gregory A Weiss is labelled a ‘Hot Paper’ in top chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie (Wiley) DOI: 10.1002/ange.202202021.

Acknowledgement: This study was funded by University of California, Irvine COVID-19 Basic, Translational and Clinical Research Fund (CRAFT), the Allergan Foundation, and UCOP Emergency COVID-19 Research Seed Funding.

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