Traditional diagnostic tests for chronic diseases are expensive and require a specialized laboratory, therefore limiting their use for point-of-care (PoC) testing. To address this gap, we developed a method for rapid and low-cost C-reactive protein (CRP) detection from blood by integrating a paper-based microfluidic immunoassay with a smartphone (CRP-Chip). We chose CRP for this initial development because it is a strong biomarker of prognosis in chronic heart and kidney disease. The microfluidic immunoassay is realized by lateral flow and gold nanoparticle-based colorimetric detection of the target protein. The test image signal is acquired and analyzed using a commercial smartphone with an attached microlens and a 3D-printed chip-phone interface. The CRP-Chip was validated for detecting CRP in blood samples from chronic kidney disease patients and healthy subjects. The linear detection range of the CRP-Chip is up to 2 μg/mL and the detection limit is 54 ng/mL. The CRP-Chip test result yields high reproducibility and is consistent with the standard ELISA kit. A single CRP-Chip can perform the test in triplicate on a single chip within 15 min for less than 50 US cents of material cost. This CRP-Chip with attractive features of low-cost, fast test speed, and integrated easy operation with smartphones has the potential to enable future clinical PoC chronic disease diagnosis and risk stratification by parallel measurements of a panel of protein biomarkers.
Keywords: C-reactive protein; chronic disease diagnosis; low-cost; microfluidic device; protein biomarkers; smartphone.