Precipitation-based colorimetric multiplex immunoassay in hydrogel particles†
Despite a growing demand for more accessible diagnostic technologies, current methods struggle to simultaneously detect multiple analytes with acceptable sensitivity and portability. Colorimetric assays have been widely used due to their simplicity of signal readout, but the lack of multiplexibility has been a perpetual constraint. Meanwhile, particle-based assays offer multiplex detection by assigning an identity code to each analyte, but they often require lab-based equipment unsuitable for portable diagnostics. Here, by merging the two approaches, this paper reports a colorimetric multiplex immunoassay based on hydrogel microparticles that achieves the best of both worlds. The low-cost portable multiplex assay demonstrates sensitivities as high as and dynamic ranges greater than the lab-based enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). These critical advances are made possible by local precipitation and amplification of insoluble colour dyes inside the hydrogel networks. For the first time, enzymatic accumulation of colour dyes in hydrogel particles is reported and the kinetics of colour development is characterized in this work. By taking advantage of the colour signals in the visible spectrum, the hydrogel microparticles were imaged and analysed using low-cost portable devices. The colorimetric multiplex immunoassay was used to successfully detect three target biomarkers of preeclampsia and validated clinically using healthy and patient-derived plasma samples.