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Lab-On-A-Chip Designed to Minimize Preterm Births

By Labmedica International staff writers
Posted on 25 Apr 2017
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Image: Scientists loading the integrated electrokinetically driven microfluidic device with pH-mediated solid-phase extraction coupled to microchip electrophoresis for preterm birth biomarkers (Photo courtesy of Nate Edwards, Brigham Young University).
Image: Scientists loading the integrated electrokinetically driven microfluidic device with pH-mediated solid-phase extraction coupled to microchip electrophoresis for preterm birth biomarkers (Photo courtesy of Nate Edwards, Brigham Young University).
In the USA, a half million babies are born preterm; worldwide, the number is an estimated 15 million and complications associated with preterm birth are the number one cause of death for children under five, and those who live often face a range of health problems.

There presently are no known current biomarker-based diagnostics for preterm births, and doctors typically only pay attention to women who have other clear risk factors. However with the help from a palm-sized plastic rectangle doctors are hoping to minimize the problem of premature deliveries. The chip is designed to predict, with up to 90% accuracy, a woman's risk for a future preterm birth.

Scientists at Brigham Young University have developed a microfluidic device that uses pH-mediated solid phase extraction (SPE) for the enrichment and elution of preterm birth (PTB) biomarkers. Furthermore, this SPE module was integrated with microchip electrophoresis for combined enrichment and separation of multiple analytes, including a PTB peptide biomarker (P1). The team used a reversed-phase octyl methacrylate monolith that was polymerized as the SPE medium in polyethylene glycol diacrylate modified cyclic olefin copolymer microfluidic channels. Eluent for pH-mediated SPE of PTB biomarkers on the monolith was optimized using different pH values and ionic concentrations.

The scientists obtained a nearly 50-fold enrichment that was observed in single channel SPE devices for a low nanomolar solution of P1, with great elution time reproducibility. The monolith binding capacity was determined to be 400 pg (0.2 pmol). A mixture of a model peptide (FA) and a PTB biomarker (P1) was extracted, eluted, injected, and then separated by microchip electrophoresis in our integrated device with approximately 15-fold enrichment.

Adam T. Woolley, PhD, a chemistry professor and senior author of the study, said, “Among other benefits, the device is cheap, small and fast: once fully developed, it will help make detecting biomarkers a simple, automated task. Some peg the annual costs associated with preterm birth just in the USA at close to USD 30 billion, so one clear perk of such a screening tool, is economic. More significantly, there are a lot of preterm babies who don't survive: if we could get them to survive and thrive, it would be a huge gain to society.” The study was published on March 8, 2017, in the journal Electrophoresis.


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