MicroTotal Pre Analytical Systems

microfluidic diagnosis graphic

MicroTotal Pre Analytical Systems (MTPAS) is a near-patient approach for next-generation sensing.

Cell-free nucleic acids (cfNAs), such as DNA, RNA and microRNA, can be used as biomarkers for rapid diagnosis and prognosis across a range of pathologies including cancer, sepsis, fetal chromosomal abnormalities and transplant rejection. Analysing cfNAs from a blood sample – a liquid biopsy – is appealing because drawing blood can be easily repeated and prevents the need for invasive sampling of human tissues.

Extracting cfNA from blood has, until now, been a labour-intensive, highly-skilled and time-consuming process. It is a largely manual involving multiple staff and several discrete steps which can sometimes result in a loss of quality in the samples. The process is also costly. The MTPAS project has developed a faster, sustainable solution, using a microfluidic chip to extract cfNAs from blood. This not only increases the robustness and reliability of the biomarkers but reduces the overall cost of sample preparation and the ease with which it can be carried out. 

Integrating novel advanced materials, packaged with on-chip reagents in a single-use cartridge, the MTPAS technology takes blood to the desired end-product with minimal user intervention, in a standardised and automated way. Increasing both the quantity and quality of circulating nucleic acids in samples, can dramatically improve clinical diagnosis and biomarker discovery; so the MTPAS technology has focused on protecting the biomarkers from enzymatic degradation, and enriching them against the rest of the nucleic acids present. This allows an unparalleled standardisation and instant preservation of the true disease state until analysis. 

This innovative solution provides faster, cheaper, more reliable and better-quality samples for vital health screening. However, single-use cartridges could generate a significant amount of additional medical waste, so MTPAS is looking into the use of a naturally-derived plastic – poly-lactic acid (PLA) – to prototype and manufacture a low carbon footprint, disposable microfluidic cartridge. PLA is produced from renewable sources and has a negative emission impact; it is also compatible with a range of rapid-prototyping and high-volume manufacturing processes.

MTPAS has the potential to significantly reduce the overall cost of sample preparation and deliver disposable micro-structured medical components. This will not only improve healthcare efficiency but quality of life for patients through earlier diagnosis of disease. 

MTPAS is funded by UKRI-EPSRC. Partners include Multiplicom MV, The Electrospinning Company, University of Birmingham and University of Edinburgh,

Contact our Global Research, Innovation and Discovery team about research collaboration and business partnership opportunities at GRID@hw.ac.uk