Many diagnostic tests in a conventional clinical laboratory are performed on blood plasma because changes in its composition often reflect the current status of pathological processes throughout the body. Recently, a significant research effort has been invested into the development of microfluidic paper-based analytical devices (μPADs) implementing these conventional laboratory tests for point-of-care diagnostics in resource-limited settings. This paper describes the use of red blood cell (RBC) agglutination for separating plasma from finger-prick volumes of whole blood directly in paper, and demonstrates the utility of this approach by integrating plasma separation and a colorimetric assay in a single μPAD. The μPAD was fabricated by printing its pattern onto chromatography paper with a solid ink (wax) printer and melting the ink to create hydrophobic barriers spanning through the entire thickness of the paper substrate. The μPAD was functionalized by spotting agglutinating antibodies onto the plasma separation zone in the center and the reagents of the colorimetric assay onto the test readout zones on the periphery of the device. To operate the μPAD, a drop of whole blood was placed directly onto the plasma separation zone of the device. RBCs in the whole blood sample agglutinated and remained in the central zone, while separated plasma wicked through the paper substrate into the test readout zones where analyte in plasma reacted with the reagents of the colorimetric assay to produce a visible color change. The color change was digitized with a portable scanner and converted to concentration values using a calibration curve. The purity and yield of separated plasma was sufficient for successful operation of the μPAD. This approach to plasma separation based on RBC agglutination will be particularly useful for designing fully integrated μPADs operating directly on small samples of whole blood.
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