Many infectious diseases, as well as some cancers, that affect global health are most accurately diagnosed through nucleic acid amplification and detection. There is a great need to simplify nucleic acid-based assay systems for use in global health in low-resource settings as well as in settings that do not have convenient access to laboratory staff and equipment such as doctors' offices and home care settings. In developing countries, unreliable electric power, inadequate supply chains, and lack of maintenance for complex diagnostic instruments are all common infrastructure shortfalls. Many elements of instrument-free, disposable, nucleic acid amplification assays have been demonstrated in recent years. However, the problem of instrument-free, low-cost, temperature-controlled chemical heating remains unsolved. In this paper we present the current status and results of work towards developing disposable, low-cost, temperature-controlled heaters designed to support isothermal nucleic acid amplification assays that are integrated with a two-dimensional paper network. Our approach utilizes the heat generated through exothermic chemical reactions and controls the heat through use of engineered phase change materials to enable sustained temperatures required for nucleic acid amplification. By selecting appropriate exothermic and phase change materials, temperatures can be controlled over a wide range, suitable for various isothermal amplification methods, and maintained for over an hour at an accuracy of +/- 1°C.
Keywords: amplification; chemical heating; membrane-based amplicon detection; non-instrumented nucleic acid amplification-based assay platform; phase change material temperature stabilization; sample preparation.