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Issue 23, 2012
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Large-scale femtoliter droplet array for digital counting of single biomolecules

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We present a novel device employing one million femtoliter droplets immobilized on a substrate for the quantitative detection of extremely low concentrations of biomolecules in a sample. Surface-modified polystyrene beads carrying either zero or a single biomolecule-reporter enzyme complex are efficiently isolated into femtoliter droplets formed on hydrophilic-in-hydrophobic surfaces. Using a conventional micropipette, this is achieved by sequential injection first with an aqueous solution containing beads, and then with fluorinated oil. The concentration of target biomolecules is estimated from the ratio of the number of signal-emitting droplets to the total number of trapped beads (digital counting). The performance of our digital counting device was demonstrated by detecting a streptavidin-β-galactosidase conjugate with a limit of detection (LOD) of 10 zM. The sensitivity of our device was >20-fold higher than that noted in previous studies where a smaller number of reactors (fifty thousand reactors) were used. Such a low LOD was achieved because of the large number of droplets in an array, allowing simultaneous examination of a large number of beads. When combined with bead-based enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (digital ELISA), the LOD for the detection of prostate specific antigen reached 2 aM. This value, again, was improved over that noted in a previous study, because of the decreased coefficient of variance of the background measurement determined by the Poisson noise. Our digital counting device using one million droplets has great potential as a highly sensitive, portable immunoassay device that could be used to diagnose diseases.

Graphical abstract: Large-scale femtoliter droplet array for digital counting of single biomolecules

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Publication details

The article was received on 01 Jun 2012, accepted on 14 Aug 2012 and first published on 15 Aug 2012

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C2LC40632B
Citation: Lab Chip, 2012,12, 4986-4991
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    Large-scale femtoliter droplet array for digital counting of single biomolecules

    S. H. Kim, S. Iwai, S. Araki, S. Sakakihara, R. Iino and H. Noji, Lab Chip, 2012, 12, 4986
    DOI: 10.1039/C2LC40632B

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