An on-chip Cell-SELEX process for automatic selection of high-affinity aptamers specific to different histologically classified ovarian cancer cells
Ovarian cancer (OvCa) is the second most common type of gynecological cancer. More seriously, the prognosis for survival is relatively poor if an early OvCa diagnosis is not achieved. However, it is extremely challenging to diagnose very early stage OvCa, when treatments are the most effective, because of the lack of specific and sensitive biomarkers. Therefore, in order to achieve early detection of OvCa, screening and identifying biomarkers with high specificity and affinity are greatly needed. In this study, an integrated microfluidic system capable of performing cell-based systematic evolution of ligands by an exponential enrichment (Cell-SELEX) process was developed for automatic, high-throughput screening of multiple cell lines to competitively select aptamer-based biomarkers for OvCa. This on-chip Cell-SELEX process only required five rounds of aptamer selection, which is much faster than using a conventional SELEX process (22 rounds). Using this on-chip process, 13 aptamers specific to OvCa cells were successfully screened and three of them showed high affinity towards target cells with dissociation constants of 1.8 nM, 8.3 nM, and 1.3 nM. Analysis of stained fluorescence images and competitive testing against multiple cancer cell lines (cervical cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, and liver cancer) were performed to verify the specificity of these selected aptamers. The results demonstrated that this developed system could perform the on-chip Cell-SELEX selection successfully and could be applied for personalized aptamer screening or targeted therapy monitoring in the near future.