Ultra-rapid real-time microfluidic RT-PCR instrument for nucleic acid analysis†
The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is paramount in nucleic acid amplification testing, and for many assays, the use of PCR or qPCR is considered the ‘gold standard’. While instrumentation for executing PCR has advanced over the last two decades, a growing interest in point-of-need testing has highlighted the deficit that exists for ‘rapid PCR’ systems. Here, we describe a field-forward prototype instrument capable of ultra-fast thermal cycling for real-time PCR amplification of DNA and RNA. The custom-designed, injection-molded microfluidic chips interface with a novel mechatronic system to complete 40 cycles of real-time PCR in under 10 minutes, an 84% reduction in time compared to a standard 50 minute assay. Such rapid amplification is enabled by two thermoelectric Peltiers capable of efficiently heating and cooling the sample at 12 and 10 °C s−1, respectively. Judicious selection and strategic placement of the thermal cyclers and fluorescence detector relative to the microchip enable synchronized thermal cycling and fluorescence monitoring, further reducing time-to-result. Robust amplification and detection of DNA and RNA targets empowers laboratories to achieve rapid, actionable information in endless applications.