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Single-step design of hydrogel-based microfluidic assays for rapid diagnostics

Significance Statement

The presented microfluidic system demonstrates a unique concept for fast and simple preparation of hydrogel diagnostic assays. Microstructures of the sensing gel for fast molecule diffusion are automatically formed by pressure barrier based liquid guiding. After gel curing, the analyte fills the space between gel strips, with a minimum of required sample but yielding a maximum of available sensing area. This design and the arrangement of the chip array allow for macroscopic readout with standard laboratory instruments (e.g. 96 well plate reader). Simplicity of assay design and operation in order to gain clinical acceptance has driven our efforts.


Single-step design of hydrogel-based microfluidic assays for rapid diagnostics. Global Medical Discovery










Journal Reference

Puchberger-Enengl D, Krutzler C, Keplinger F, Vellekoop MJ. Lab Chip. 14(2):378-83. (2014).

Institute of Sensor and Actuator Systems, Vienna University of Technology, 1040 Vienna, Austria. [email protected]


 For the first time we demonstrate a microfluidic platform for the preparation of biosensing hydrogels by in situ polymerization of polyethyleneglycol diacrylate (PEG-DA) in a single step. Capillary pressure barriers enable the precise formation of gel microstructures for fast molecule diffusion. Parallel arrangement of these finger structures allows for macroscopic and standard equipment readout methods. The analyte automatically fills the space in between the gel fingers by the hydrophilic nature of the gel. Introducing the functional structures in the chip fabrication allows for rapid assay customization by making surface treatment, gel curing mask alignment and washing steps obsolete. Simple handling and functionality are illustrated by assays for matrix metalloproteinase, an important factor in chronic wound healing. Assays for total protein concentration and cell counts are presented, demonstrating the possibilities for a wide range of fast and simple diagnostics.

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