Advances in the production and handling of encoded microparticles
Here we highlight emerging technologies in the synthesis, handling, and application of encoded microparticles for multiplexed assays. Traditionally, in drug discovery and life sciences research, multiple reactions will be conducted in parallel using microwell plate formats or microfluidic implementations, in which volumes are confined and reactions annotated by knowledge of what reagents were added to each volume. Microparticle-based information carriers provide an alternative approach to performing such multiplexed reactions, in which reactions and events are instead annotated with unique codes associated with the solid-phase particle. One challenge has been in creating a unique and large enough code set that is also easily readout, and we highlight two approaches that have brought orthogonal optical tagging techniques to bear. Another challenge has been that in such approaches, reactions have usually been confined to the surface of, or within the bulk of the specifically-tagged particle. We also highlight a creative approach and strategy for multiplexing – called “partipetting” – in which the coded particle can be a carrier of a unique fluid reagent.