Theses Doctoral

Microfluidic Selection and Applications of Aptamers

Hilton, John Paul

BioMEMS technology has the potential to increase the efficiency of conventional biological and medical protocols, by reducing their consumption of time and resources. Through more efficient surface-based chemical reactions and automation of tedious manual processes, orders of magnitude increases in efficiency across a number of metrics can be achieved by shifting conventional medical and biological protocols to the microscale domain. The SELEX process, by which aptamer sequences are selected via isolation from randomized libraries, is a time-consuming and resource-intensive protocol which is being performed with increasing frequency in both academic and private sector laboratories. Conventional approaches using macroscale technology cannot meet the current demand for selection of new aptamer sequences, as they require months of work and liters of expensive reagents. Microscale approaches to the SELEX process have been receiving attention in recent years due to their initial successes in reducing the time and reagents necessary to find aptamers. In particular, microscale "selection" or partitioning of weakly bound sequences from aptamer candidates, and on-chip integration of the protocol have separately been explored as approaches to scaling and improving SELEX. Initial results have shown that this technology can reduce resource requirements for SELEX by at least an order of magnitude. In this dissertation, a new approach to on-chip SELEX is developed which integrates highly efficient microfluidic selection and on-chip integration of the entire protocol. As a result, further reductions in processing time and reagent requirements can be realized. A demonstration of aptamer capabilities is first achieved via the development of a microfluidic aptasensor for cocaine, which utilizes aptamer-coated microbeads and fluorescent detection. Secondly, a technology necessary for on-chip integration of SELEX is developed: a novel bead-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR) protocol which vastly simplifies procedures for the capture and resuspension of ssDNA in solution. This protocol is then integrated on-chip with bead-based partitioning of weakly bound sequences to develop a microchip which performs temperature-specific isolation of aptamer sequences from a randomized library. Finally, this approach is further developed into a microfluidic SELEX chip which is capable of performing multiple rounds of temperature-specific SELEX. The novel bead-based protocol is shown to efficiently isolate target-binding sequences from a random library in a fraction of the time previously reported. As a result, this research provides a schematic for the development of highly efficient, integrated microfluidic SELEX devices. Such devices have the potential to impact a variety of fields including medical diagnostics, drug detection, and aptamer-based therapeutics.


  • thumnail for Hilton_columbia_0054D_11122.pdf Hilton_columbia_0054D_11122.pdf application/pdf 1.94 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Mechanical Engineering
Thesis Advisors
Qiao, Lin
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 1, 2013