CRISPR-powered electrochemical microfluidic multiplexed biosensor for target amplification-free miRNA diagnostics

Recently the use of microRNAs (miRNAs) as biomarkers for a multitude of diseases has gained substantial significance for clinical as well as point-of-care diagnostics. Amongst other challenges, however, it holds the central requirement that the concentration of a given miRNA must be evaluated within the context of other factors in order to unambiguously diagnose one specific disease. In terms of the development of diagnostic methods and devices, this implies an inevitable demand for multiplexing in order to be able to gauge the abundance of several components of interest in a patient's sample in parallel. In this study, we design and implement different multiplexed versions of our electrochemical microfluidic biosensor by dividing its channel into subsections, creating four novel chip designs for the amplification-free and simultaneous quantification of up to eight miRNAs on the CRISPR-Biosensor X (‘X’ highlighting the multiplexing aspect of the device). We then use a one-step model assay followed by amperometric readout in combination with a 2-min-stop-flow-protocol to explore the fluidic and mechanical characteristics and limitations of the different versions of the device. The sensor showing the best performance, is subsequently used for the Cas13a-powered proof-of-concept measurement of two miRNAs (miRNA-19b and miRNA-20a) from the miRNA-17–92 cluster, which is dysregulated in the blood of pediatric medulloblastoma patients. Quantification of the latter, alongside simultaneous negative control measurements are accomplished on the same device. We thereby confirm the applicability of our platform to the challenge of amplification-free, parallel detection of multiple nucleic acids. © 2020 Elsevier B.V.