Droplet Actuator Devices and Methods Employing Magnetic Beads
1. A method comprising:
- effecting a change in a shape of a droplet, wherein the droplet is disposed over a substrate in sensing proximity to a sensor and the droplet has a starting surface area exposed to the sensor; and
producing an expanded surface area of the droplet in the sensing proximity exposed to the sensor, wherein the expanded surface area exposed to the sensor is greater than the starting surface area exposed to the sensor.
A method comprising effecting a change in a shape of a droplet, wherein the droplet is disposed over a substrate in sensing proximity to a sensor and the droplet has a starting surface area exposed to the sensor; and producing an expanded surface area of the droplet in the sensing proximity exposed to the sensor, wherein the expanded surface area exposed to the sensor is greater than the starting surface area exposed to the sensor.
- 1. A method comprising:
effecting a change in a shape of a droplet, wherein the droplet is disposed over a substrate in sensing proximity to a sensor and the droplet has a starting surface area exposed to the sensor; and producing an expanded surface area of the droplet in the sensing proximity exposed to the sensor, wherein the expanded surface area exposed to the sensor is greater than the starting surface area exposed to the sensor.
- View Dependent Claims (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)
- 9. A method comprising:
activating one or more electrodes associated with a substrate to effect a change in a shape of a droplet, wherein the droplet is disposed over a substrate in sensing proximity to a photon sensor, and the droplet has a starting surface area exposed to the sensor; and producing an expanded surface area of the droplet in sensing proximity to the photon sensor, wherein the expanded surface area exposed to the sensor is greater than the starting surface area exposed to the sensor.
- View Dependent Claims (10, 11, 12)
- 13. A method comprising:
transporting a first droplet from a set of two or more droplets into sensing proximity with a sensor while retaining at least one remainder droplet of the set in a buffer zone; and transporting the first droplet away from the sensing proximity with the sensor and transporting a second droplet of the at least one remainder droplet of the set from the buffer zone into the sensing proximity with the sensor.
- View Dependent Claims (14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20)
This application is a continuation of U.S. application Ser. No. 14/719,731, filed on May 22, 2015, entitled “Droplet Actuator Devices and Methods Employing Magnetic Beads,” which is a continuation of U.S. application Ser. No. 12/524,495 (now U.S. Pat. No. 9,046,514), filed on Jul. 24, 2009, entitled “Droplet Actuator Devices and Methods Employing Magnetic Beads,” which is a U.S. National Stage entry of PCT Application No. PCT/US2008/053545, filed on Feb. 11, 2008, entitled “Droplet Actuator Devices and Methods Employing Magnetic Beads,” which claims priority to provisional U.S. Patent Application No. 60/900,653, filed on Feb. 9, 2007, entitled “Immobilization of magnetically-responsive beads during droplet operations”; 60/980,772, filed on Oct. 17, 2007, entitled “Immobilization of magnetically-responsive beads in droplets”; 60/969,736, filed on Sep. 4, 2007, entitled “Droplet actuator assay improvements”; and 60/980,762, filed Oct. 17, 2007, entitled “Droplet actuator assay improvements;” each of the aforementioned disclosures is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.
This invention was made with government support under CA114993-01A2 and DK066956-02 awarded by the National Institutes of Health of the United States. The United States Government has certain rights in the invention.
The invention relates generally to the field of droplet actuators, and in particular, to droplet actuators configured for conducting droplet based protocols requiring droplet operations to be conducted using droplets comprising beads, especially magnetically responsive beads. The invention also relates to methods of making and using such droplet actuators.
Droplet actuators are used to conduct a wide variety of droplet operations. A droplet actuator typically includes a substrate associated with electrodes for conducting droplet operations on a droplet operations surface thereof and may also include a second substrate arranged in a generally parallel fashion in relation to the droplet operations surface to form a gap in which droplet operations are effected. The gap is typically filled with a filler fluid that is immiscible with the fluid that is to be subjected to droplet operations on the droplet actuator.
In some applications of a droplet actuator there is a need for using “beads” for various assays. For protocols that make use of beads, the beads are typically used to bind to one or more target substances in a mixture of substances. The target substances may, for example, be analytes or contaminants. There is a need for an efficient approach to bead washing on a droplet actuator in order to reduce the amount of one or more substances in a bead-containing droplet that may be in contact with or exposed to the surface of the bead or beads.
One aspect of the invention provides efficient immobilization of magnetically responsive beads for droplet operations that make use of magnetically responsive beads in droplet-based applications. Examples include assays that require execution of bead washing protocols, such as pyrosequencing and immunoassay applications. In one example, the invention provides techniques employing magnetic forces for immobilizing magnetically responsive beads during droplet splitting operations. The techniques of the invention are particularly useful in protocols for washing magnetically responsive beads within a droplet actuator. Among other advantages, the techniques of the invention avoid undue clumping or aggregation of the magnetically responsive beads. During droplet splitting operations, the techniques can usefully immobilize substantially all of the magnetically responsive beads within a droplet. Techniques of the invention may ensure immobilization and retention of substantially all magnetically responsive beads during a droplet washing operation. Upon completion of a washing process, the techniques of the invention ensure resuspension of substantially all of the magnetically responsive beads within the liquid and with substantially no clumping or aggregation thereof.
Another aspect of the invention provides improved droplet actuators and related methods for effecting improved droplet-based assay operations. Embodiments of the invention provide mechanisms for reducing the crossover of magnetic fields within a droplet actuator. Other embodiments of the invention provide mechanisms for reducing the carryover of beads and other substances within a droplet actuator. Yet other embodiments of the invention provide mechanisms for improving droplet detection operations within a droplet actuator.
As used herein, the following terms have the meanings indicated.
“Activate” with reference to one or more electrodes means effecting a change in the electrical state of the one or more electrodes which results in a droplet operation.
“Bead,” with respect to beads on a droplet actuator, means any bead or particle that is capable of interacting with a droplet on or in proximity with a droplet actuator. Beads may be any of a wide variety of shapes, such as spherical, generally spherical, egg shaped, disc shaped, cubical and other three dimensional shapes. The bead may, for example, be capable of being transported in a droplet on a droplet actuator or otherwise configured with respect to a droplet actuator in a manner which permits a droplet on the droplet actuator to be brought into contact with the bead, on the droplet actuator and/or off the droplet actuator. Beads may be manufactured using a wide variety of materials, including for example, resins, and polymers. The beads may be any suitable size, including for example, microbeads, microparticles, nanobeads and nanoparticles. In some cases, beads are magnetically responsive; in other cases beads are not significantly magnetically responsive. For magnetically responsive beads, the magnetically responsive material may constitute substantially all of a bead or one component only of a bead. The remainder of the bead may include, among other things, polymeric material, coatings, and moieties which permit attachment of an assay regent. Examples of suitable magnetically responsive beads are described in U.S. Patent Publication No. 2005-0260686, entitled, “Multiplex flow assays preferably with magnetic particles as solid phase,” published on Nov. 24, 2005, the entire disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference for its teaching concerning magnetically responsive materials and beads. The beads may include one or more populations of biological cells adhered thereto. In some cases, the biological cells are a substantially pure population. In other cases, the biological cells include different cell populations, e.g., cell populations which interact with one another.
“Droplet” means a volume of liquid on a droplet actuator that is at least partially bounded by filler fluid. For example, a droplet may be completely surrounded by filler fluid or may be bounded by filler fluid and one or more surfaces of the droplet actuator. Droplets may take a wide variety of shapes; nonlimiting examples include generally disc shaped, slug shaped, truncated sphere, ellipsoid, spherical, partially compressed sphere, hemispherical, avoid, cylindrical, and various shapes formed during droplet operations, such as merging or splitting or formed as a result of contact of such shapes with one or more surfaces of a droplet actuator.
“Droplet operation” means any manipulation of a droplet on a droplet actuator. A droplet operation may, for example, include: loading a droplet into the droplet actuator; dispensing one or more droplets from a source droplet; splitting, separating or dividing a droplet into tow or more droplets; transporting a droplet from one location to another in any direction; merging or combining two or more droplets into a single droplet; diluting a droplet; mixing a droplet; agitating a droplet; deforming a droplet; retaining a droplet in position; incubating a droplet; heating a droplet; vaporizing a droplet; cooling a droplet; disposing of a droplet; transporting a droplet out of a droplet actuator; other droplet operations described herein; and/or any combination of the foregoing. The terms “merge,” “merging,” “combine,” “combining” and the like are used to describe the creation of one droplet from two or more droplets. It should be understood that when such a term is used in reference to two or more droplets, any combination of droplet operations sufficient to result in the combination of the two or more droplets into one droplet may be used. For example, “merging droplet A with droplet B,” can be achieved by transporting droplet A into contact with a stationary droplet B, transporting droplet B into contact with a stationary droplet A, or transporting droplets A and B into contact with each other. The terms “splitting,” “separating” and “dividing” are not intended to imply any particular outcome with respect to size of the resulting droplets (i.e., the size of the resulting droplets can be the same or different) or number of resulting droplets (the number of resulting droplets may be 2, 3, 4, 5 or more). The term “mixing” refers to droplet operations which result in more homogenous distribution of one or more components within a droplet. Examples of “loading” droplet operations include microdialysis loading, pressure assisted loading, robotic loading, passive loading, and pipette loading.
“Immobilize” with respect to magnetically responsive beads, means that the beads are substantially restrained in position in a droplet or in filler fluid on a droplet actuator. For example, in one embodiment, immobilized beads are sufficiently restrained in position to permit execution of a splitting operation on a droplet, yielding one droplet with substantially all of the beads and one droplet substantially lacking in the beads.
“Magnetically responsive” means responsive to a magnetic field. “Magnetically responsive beads” include or are composed of magnetically responsive materials. Examples of magnetically responsive materials include paramagnetic materials, ferromagnetic materials, ferromagnetic materials, and metamagnetic materials. Examples of suitable paramagnetic materials include iron, nickel, and cobalt, as well as metal oxides, such as Fe.sub.3O.sub.4, BaFe.sub.12O.sub.19, CoO, NiO, Mn.sub.2O.sub.3, Cr.sub.2O.sub.3, and CoMnP.
“Washing” with respect to washing a magnetically responsive bead means reducing the amount and/or concentration of one or more substances in contact with the magnetically responsive bead or exposed to the magnetically responsive bead from a droplet in contact with the magnetically responsive bead. The reduction in the amount and/or concentration of the substance may be partial, substantially complete, or even complete. The substance may be any of a wide variety of substances; examples include target substances for further analysis, and unwanted substances, such as components of a sample, contaminants, and/or excess reagent. In some embodiments, a washing operation begins with a starting droplet in contact with a magnetically responsive bead, where the droplet includes an initial amount and initial concentration of a substance. The washing operation may proceed using a variety of droplet operations. The washing operation may yield a droplet including the magnetically responsive bead, where the droplet has a total amount and/or concentration of the substance which is less than the initial amount and/or concentration of the substance. Other embodiments are described elsewhere herein, and still others will be immediately apparent in view of the present disclosure.
The terms “top” and “bottom” are used throughout the description with reference to the top and bottom substrates of the droplet actuator for convenience only, since the droplet actuator is functional regardless of its position in space.
When a given component, such as a layer, region or substrate, is referred to herein as being disposed or formed “on” another component, that given component can be directly on the other component or, alternatively, intervening components (for example, one or more coating, layers, interlayers, electrodes or contacts) can also be present. It will be further understood that the terms “disposed on” and “formed on” are used interchangeably to describe how a given component is positioned or situated in relation to another component. Hence, the terms “disposed on” and “formed on” are not intended to introduce any limitations relating to particular methods of material transport, deposition, or fabrication.
When a liquid in any form (e.g., a droplet or a continuous body, whether moving or stationary) is described as being “on”, “at”, or “over” an electrode, array, matrix or surface, such liquid could be either in direct contact with the electrode/array/matrix/surface, or could be in contact with one or more layers or films that are interposed between the liquid and the electrode/array/matrix/surface.
When a droplet is described as being “on” or “loaded on” a droplet actuator, it should be understood that the droplet is arranged on the droplet actuator in a manner which facilitates, using the droplet actuator to conduct one or more droplet operations on the droplet, the droplet is arranged on the droplet actuator in a manner which facilitates sensing of a property of or a signal from the droplet, and/or the droplet has been subjected to a droplet operation on the droplet actuator.
The present invention relates, among other things, to droplet actuators configured for immobilizing magnetically-responsive beads and to methods of making and using such droplet actuators. As an example, the droplet actuators are useful for immobilizing beads in droplets on the droplet actuators, thereby facilitating the execution of protocols which require immobilization of such beads, sued as bead washing protocols. The invention also provides techniques for reducing or eliminating carryover of substances from droplet to droplet in a droplet actuator and techniques for maximizing signal detection on a droplet actuator.
Among other things, the invention provides improved droplet actuators that have various magnet configurations in which magnets are arranged for efficiently splitting bead-containing droplets and washing magnetically responsive beads are described with reference to
Magnet 216 is positioned relative to one or more droplet operation electrodes 214, in order to localize beads 220 in a region of the portion of the droplet 218/222 that is to form droplet 218 without permitting substantial loss of beads 218 during the droplet splitting operation to droplet 222.
In operation, a splitting operation is achieved without substantial loss of magnetic beads 220 by: as shown in 201, providing a droplet actuator 200 with electrodes activated (ON) to form combined droplet 218/222 and magnet 216 is arranged in a position which causes substantially all of magnetically responsive beads 220 to be attracted to magnet 216 in a zone of droplet 218/222 that prevents substantial loss of magnetically responsive beads 220 to droplet 222. Magnet 216 may be arranged so that magnetically responsive beads 220 attracted thereto are localized at a generally centralized location along lateral diameter L within combined droplet 218/222 and away from the droplet split zone 224. During a droplet splitting operation as shown in 202, an intermediate electrode is deactivated (OFF) to cause splitting at split zone 224. Substantially all magnetically responsive beads 220 are retained in droplet 218, and droplet 222 is formed and is substantially free of magnetically responsive beads 220, as shown in 203.
A process for washing magnetically responsive beads 20 may, in one embodiment, involve the repetition of droplet merging (with a wash droplet), bead immobilization, splitting, and bead resuspension operations until acceptable levels of washing are achieved.
Magnets 310a and 310b may be separate magnets or, alternatively, magnets 310a and 310b may be opposite poles of a single U-shaped, C-shaped, or horseshoe-shaped permanent magnet or electromagnet. The arrangement of magnets 310a and 310b may cause magnetically responsive beads 220 to be immobilized and retained in a column-shaped duster. The magnets are preferably arranged to localize beads within droplet 218 in a position which is away form splitting zone 224 in the portion of the combined droplet (not shown) in which the beads are to be retained. Further, the magnets are preferably aligned to centrally localize the beads along lateral diameter L within the combined droplet (not shown).
Magnets 410a and 410b may be arranged in close proximity to the droplet, equally spaced on either side of the droplet, with opposite poles facing each other. For example, the north pole of magnet 410a may face the south pole of magnet 410b. Magnets 410c and 410d may be arranged in close proximity to the droplet, equally spaced on either side of the droplet, with opposite poles facing each other. For example, the north pole of magnet 410d may face the south pole of magnet 410c. Magnet pair 410a/410b may generally be aligned at right angles around the droplet relative to magnet pair 410c/410d. In the illustrated embodiment, magnet pair 410a/410b has a vertical orientation around the droplet, and magnet pair 410c/410d has a horizontal orientation around the droplet. Any orientation around the droplet achieving the generally central localization of beads along lateral dimension L and vertical dimension V will suffice to achieve the desired central immobilization.
Magnets 410a and 410b may be arranged in close proximity to the outer side of first substrate 210 and second substrate 212, respectively, such that the magnetic field of magnets 410a and 410b may pass through the gap between first substrate 210 and second substrate 212 of droplet actuator 400. magnets 410a and 410b are arranged such that opposite poles are facing one another. In one example, the north pole of magnet 410a is facing the south pole of magnet 410b, as shown in
Magnets 410a and 410b may be separate magnets or, alternatively, magnets 410a and 410b may be opposite poles of a single U-shaped, C-shaped, or horseshoe-shaped permanent magnet or electromagnet. Similarly, magnets 410c and 410d may be separate magnets or, alternatively, magnets 410c and 410d may be opposite poles of a single U-shaped, C-shaped, or horseshoe-shaped permanent magnet or electromagnet. Because the magnetic field of magnets 410a and 410b and magnets 410c and 410d, respectively, intersect at the center of the fluid path within droplet actuator 400, the magnetically responsive beads 220 are magnetically immobilized and retained in a cluster that is centralized within the combined droplet and retained in droplet 218 following the splitting operation.
8.2.4 Illustration of Splitting with Substantially No Bead Loss
8.3 Droplet Actuator Configurations with Magnets 8.3.1 Droplet Actuator with Magnetic Shield
Droplet actuator 600 further includes a magnet 638 that is arranged in proximity to the one or more electrodes 622. Magnet 638 may be arranged in sufficient proximity to electrodes 622 in order to permit immobilization of magnetically responsive beads (not shown), e.g., in a droplet positioned on an electrode. In one example, the purpose of magnet 638 is to magnetically immobilize and retain magnetically responsive beads during a droplet splitting operation, e.g., a splitting operation that may be performed in a process for washing magnetically responsive beads.
Additionally, droplet actuator 600 includes a magnetic shield 642 that is arranged in sufficient proximity to fluid reservoir 630 to shield the contents thereof from nearby magnetic fields, such as the magnetic field of magnet 638. Magnetic shield 642 may, for example, be formed of Mu-metal that has sufficiently high magnetic permeability and that is suitable to reduce, preferably substantially eliminate, unwanted magnetic fields from the magnet within fluid reservoir 630. In one example, magnetic shield 642 may be formed of Mu-metal that is supplied by McMaster-Carr (Elmhurst, Ill.). Other examples of magnetic shield 642 materials include Permalloy, iron, steel and nickel.
Droplet actuator 600 is not limited to one magnetic shield and one magnet only, any number of magnetic shields and magnets may be installed therein. Therefore, by use of one or more magnetic shields, the exposure of magnetic beads (not shown) within droplets to magnetic fields may be limited to desired regions only of droplet actuator 600. Magnetic shields may be included on any surface of the droplet actuator and in any arrangement which facilitates suitable shielding.
In one example application, a droplet actuator may be employed to perform multiple assays in parallel and, consequently, there may be a need for generally simultaneous washing of the various magnetic beads that may be manipulated within multiple lanes of electrodes. Without magnetic shields, a wash operation or assay that is performed at a certain location using an associated magnet may be affected by the magnetic field of a distant magnet (i.e., crossover of magnetic fields). By contrast, crossover of magnetic fields between any two magnets may be reduced, preferably substantially eliminated, via the strategic placement of one or mare magnetic shields, such as magnetic shield 642, within the droplet actuator.
8.3.2 Droplet Actuator with Alternating Magnet Configuration
In order to reduce, preferably substantially eliminate, crossover of magnetic fields between adjacent magnets, the poles of adjacent magnets are oppositely arranged, which causes the adjacent magnetic fields to cancel. For example and referring again to
The invention also provides techniques for reducing carryover in a droplet actuator, as well as techniques for improving detection operations.
In some cases, a build up of substances at a detection region, such as detection region 914, may occur due to carryover, which involves beads or other substances being left behind on surfaces and/or in filler fluid during droplet operations. Carryover may interfere with accurate detection of signals from subsequent droplets and/or interfere with droplet operations by affected electrodes.
Referring again to
During, for example, a droplet split operation, a quantity of “satellite” droplets may be left behind at the point at which the split occurs. For example and referring to
Additionally, droplet actuator 1200 may include a droplet detection region 1218 that has an associated PMT (not shown) for measuring light that is emitted from a certain droplet 1214 when present. In order to reduce, preferably substantially eliminate, the carryover of light from a distant droplet 1214 to droplet detection region 1218, a minimum distance d is maintained in all direction between the outer perimeter of droplet detection region 1218 and any distant droplets 1214 within droplet actuator 1200, as shown in
In an alternative embodiment, cross-over from nearby droplets is eliminated by using optical elements, such as one or more lenses, which focus only light from the droplet being interrogated onto the sensor and eliminates signal from other droplets.
Mask 1342 may be formed upon top plate 1310 via a layer of any light-absorbing material, as long as the material that is used is compatible with the electrowetting process and does not unduly interfere with the droplet actuator operations. In one example, mask 1342 may be formed by applying a layer of black paint to top plate 1310, such that one or more windows, such as PMT window 1334, are provided in selected defection regions of droplet actuator 1300. In the example shown in
8.5 Droplet Actuators with Magnet Assemblies
Magnet assembly 1420 may include a substrate 1424 upon which is mounted one or more magnets 1428, as shown in
Magnets may be marked or coded (e.g., color coded) to facilitate selection of magnets having appropriate properties, as well as marked to show the orientation of the magnet'"'"'s magnetic field (e.g., by color coding or otherwise marking the North and South faces of the magnets). Similarly, the magnet assembly 1420 may be marked to show the desired orientation of magnets inserted therein, and in some embodiments, magnets may be shaped to permit them to be affixed to the magnet assembly 1420 only in an appropriate orientation.
Moreover, in another embodiment, the user may be provided with magnet assemblies 1420 having magnets already affixed thereto, wherein the magnet assemblies 1420 each have different magnet configurations, e.g., sets of magnets having different properties. The user may select the magnet configuration having magnets having properties appropriate to the user'"'"'s desired use for the instrument. Magnet assembly 1420 may be marked or otherwise color coded to facilitate selection by the user. Magnet properties may, for example, be selected based on the properties of beads selected by the user.
Droplet actuator 1430 may include a substrate 1434 upon which is an arrangement of electrodes 1438, e.g., electrowetting electrodes, as shown in
Magnet assembly 1420 is designed such that magnets 1428 substantially align with certain electrodes 1438 of interest on droplet actuator 1430. For example, in some embodiments, parallel configurations of magnets may be present for conducting parallel assay steps on droplet actuator 1430. Magnets may be configured and oriented, for example, according to the various configurations and orientations described herein.
Mount 1410 may serve as a universal platform for mounting a magnet assembly, such as magnet assembly 1420, and a droplet actuator, such as droplet actuator 1430. In one embodiment, mount 1410 is configured to accept a wide variety of magnet assemblies 1420 and a wide variety of droplet actuators 1430. Magnet assembly 1420 may include one or more magnets arranged in any of a variety of patterns and employing any of a variety of magnet properties.
In one example, magnet assembly 1420 and droplet actuator 1430 may be installed into mount 1410 via respective fittings 1418 and 1414. Fittings may, for example, involve slots into which the mount 1410 may be fitted, openings on the mount 1410 for accepting posts on the magnet assemblies 1420 or vice versa, openings on the mount 1410 for accepting screws on the magnet assemblies 1420, threaded posts for accepting bolts, various spring loaded mechanisms, recessed trays, complimentary fittings, and the like. Any mechanism which facilitates sufficiently secure attachment to permit the device to function for its intended purpose will suffice.
Further, the mount 1410 may include multiple fittings for multiple possible positions of magnet assembly 1420 and/or droplet actuator 1430, and/or mounting of multiple magnet assemblies 1420 and/or multiple droplet actuators 1430 in a single mount 1410. Further, mount 1410 may be configured to permit magnet assemblies 1420 to be mounted above, below and/or beside the droplet actuator 1430, i.e., in any relationship with the droplet actuator. With droplet actuator 1430 installed in modular mount 1410, any magnet assembly of interest, such as magnet assembly 1420, may be inserted into modular droplet actuator assembly 1400 via, for example, the slot.
In addition to other aspects already described, it should be noted that magnets selected for use with the invention may be permanent or electromagnets. There may be a relationship between the magnetically responsive content of the beads at the droplet and the magnetic strength/pull force. Therefore, the magnet strength/pull force of the magnet may be selected relative to the responsiveness of the magnet beads such that it is:
sufficiently strong relative to the magnetic responsiveness of the bends to substantially immobilize magnetically responsive beads;
not so strong relative to the magnetic responsiveness of the beads that it significantly magnetizes the beads and, thus, causes irreversible formation of clumps of beads;
not so strong relative to the magnetic responsiveness of the beads that resuspension occurs poorly when the magnet field is removed; and/or
not so strong relative to the magnetic responsiveness of the beads that the beads are pulled out of the droplet altogether.
In some embodiments, the magnet may have high magnetic strength (in Tesla) with lesser pull force (in pounds). In one example, magnet is a neodymium permanent magnet that has a surface field strength of about 1 Tesla (T). In another example, the magnet is an electromagnet that has a surface field strength of about 1 T, which may be turned on and off electronically. Where a permanent magnet is used, the magnet may be moved away from the magnetically responsive bead-containing droplet for uses in which it is desirable to remove the influence of the magnetic field. While not limited to the following ranges, it is understood that ranges of magnetic strength that generally encompasses the useful strength of the present invention can include: a broad range of 0.01 T to 100 T (pulsed) or 45 T (continuous); an intermediate range of 0.01 T to 10 T: and a narrow range of 0.1 T to 1 T (preferably 0.5 T).
Droplets including magnetic beads and subjected to droplet splitting operations may include any of a wide variety of samples, reagents, and buffers useful for conducting assays using the beads. For example, during washing, the droplet may include a buffer. such as a phosphate-buffered saline (PBS) buffer with a surfactant that is suitable for use in magnetic based immunoassays. Preferred surfactants are these which facilitate immobilization and/or resuspension of beads following immobilization by magnetic forces. The surfactant and amount of surfactant may be adjusted to provide a substantial improvement in suspension as compared to a control solution lacking the surfactant. In one embodiment, the droplet includes PBS buffer with about 0.01% Tween® 20.
A hydrophilic polymer and/or surfactant may be included in the droplet to facilitate retention and resuspension of magnetically responsive beads during splitting operation. The droplet may include a wide variety of liquids immiscible with the filler fluid. Examples of buffers include, but are not limited to, phosphate-buffered saline (PBS) buffer and Tris buffer saline. In one embodiment, the droplet fluid includes a buffer, such as the PBS buffet; and any surfactant that is suitable for use in magnetic based immunoassays.
Preferred hydrophilic polymers and surfactants are those which facilitate resuspension of beads following immobilization by magnetic forces. The surfactant and amount of surfactant may be adjusted to provide a substantial improvement in resuspension as compared to a control solution lacking the surfactant. Examples of surfactants that are suitable for use in magnetic based immunoassays include, but are not limited to, polysorbate 20, which is commercially known as Tween®20, and Triton X-100, Tween® 20 may be supplied by, for example, Pierce Biotechnology, Inc. (Woburn, Mass.). Triton® X-100 may be supplied by, for example, Rohm & Haas Co (Philadelphia, Pa.). In one example, the droplet fluid within the droplet actuator is a mix of PBS with Tween® 20 in the range of from about 0.001% to about 0.1%. In another example, the droplet fluid within the droplet actuator is a mix of PBS with about 0.01% Tween® 20.
Other examples include pluronic surfactants, polyethylene glycol (PEG), methoxypolethylene glycol (MPEG), poly-sorbate (polyxoxyethylene sorbitan monocicates or Tween®), polyoxyethylene octy phenyl ether (Triton X-100®), polyvinyl pyrollidone, polyacrylic acid (and crosslinked polyacrylic acid such as carbomer), polyglycosides (nonionic glycosidic surfactants such as octyl glucopyranoside) and soluble polysaccharides (and derivatives thereof) such as heparin, dextrans, methyl cellulose, propyl methyl cellulose (and other cellulose esters and ethers), dextrins, maltodextrins, glactomannans, arbainoglactans, beta glucans, alginates, agar, carrageenan, and plant gums such as xanthan gum, psyllium, guar gum, gum traganth, gun karya, gum ghatti and gum acacia. The particular additive can be selected for maximum compatibility with a specific microfluidic sample.
For examples of droplet actuator architectures that are suitable for use with the present invention, see U.S. Pat. No. 6,911,132, entitled, “Apparatus for Manipulating Droplets by Electrowetting-Based Techniques,” issued on Jun. 28, 2005, to Pamula et al.; U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/343,284, entitled, “Apparatuses and methods for Manipulating Droplets on a Printed Circuit Board,” filed on filed on Jan. 30, 2006; U.S. Pat. No. 6,773,566, entitled, “Electrostatic Actuators for Microfluidics and Methods for Using Same,” issued on Aug. 10, 2004 and U.S. Pat. No. 6,565,727, entitled, “Actuators for Microfluidics Without Moving Parts,” issued on Jan. 24, 2000, both to Shenderov et al., and International Patent Application No. PCT/US 06/47486 to Pollack et al., entitled, “Droplet-Based Biochemistry,” filed on Dec. 11, 2006, the disclosures of which are incorporated herein by reference. Droplet actuator techniques for immobilizing magnetic beads and/or non-magnetic beads are described in the foregoing international patent applications and in Sista, et al., U.S. Patent Application No. 60/900,653, filed on Feb. 9, 2007, entitled “Immobilization of magnetically-responsive beads during droplet operations”: Sista et al., U.S. Patent Application No. 60/969,736, filed on Sep. 4, 2007, entitled “Droplet Actuator Assay Improvements”; and Allen et al., U.S. Patent Application No. 60/957,717, filed on Aug. 24, 2007, entitled “Bead washing using physical barriers,” the entire disclosures of which is incorporated herein by reference. Combinations of these various techniques are within the scope of this invention.
For examples of fluids that may be subjected to droplet operations of the invention, see the patents listed in section 8.8, especially International Patent Application No. PCT/US 06/47486, entitled, “Droplet-Based Biochemistry,” filed on Dec. 11, 2006. In some embodiments, the droplet is a sample fluid, such as a biological sample, such as whole blood, lymphatic fluid, serum, plasma, sweat, tear, saliva, sputum, cerebrospinal fluid, amniotic fluid, seminal fluid, vaginal excretion, serous fluid, synovial fluid, pericardial fluid, peritoneal fluid, pleural fluid, transodates, exudates, cystic fluid, bile, urine, gastric fluid, intestinal fluid, fecal samples, fluidized tissues, fluidized organisms, biological swabs and biological washes. In some embodiments, the fluid that is loaded includes a reagent, such as water, deionized water, saline solutions, acidic solutions, basic solutions, detergent solutions and/or buffers. In some embodiments, the fluid that is loaded includes a reagent, such as a reagent for a biochemical protocol, such as a nucleic acid amplification protocol, an affinity-based assay protocol, a sequencing protocol, and/or a protocol for analyses of biological fluids.
As noted, the gap is typically filled with a filler fluid. The filler fluid may, for example, be a low-viscosity oil, such as silicone oil. Other examples, of filler fluids are provided in International Patent Application No. PCT/US 06/47486, entitled, “Droplet-Based Biochemistry,” filed on Dec. 11, 2006.
For protocols making use of beads, droplets with beads can be combined using droplet operations with one or more wash droplets. Then, while retaining the beads (e.g., physically or magnetically) using magnet configurations of the invention, the merged droplet may be divided using droplet operations into two or more droplets: one or more droplets with beads and one or more droplets without a substantial amount of beads. In one embodiment, the merged droplet is divided using droplet operations into one droplet with beads and one droplet without a substantial amount of beads.
Generally, each execution of a washing protocol results in retention of sufficient beads for conducting the intended assay without unduly detrimental effects on the results of the assay. In certain embodiments, each division of the merged droplet results in retention of more than 90, 95, 97, 98, 99, 99.1, 99.2, 99.3, 99.4, 99.5, 99.6, 99.7, 99.8, 99, 99.9, 99.99, 99.999, 99.9999, 99.99999, or 99.999999 percent of beads. In other embodiments, each execution of a washing protocol to achieve a predetermined reduction in the concentration and/or amount of removed substance results in retention of more than 99, 99.1, 99.2, 99.3, 99.4, 99.5, 99.6, 99.7, 99.8, 99, 99.9, 99.99, 99.999, 99.9999, 99.99999, or 99.999999 percent of beads. In still other embodiments, the amount of retained beads is calculated and the results are adjusted accordingly.
In some embodiments, beads can be washed in reservoirs in which the bead-containing droplet and wash droplets are combined, beads are retained (for example by a magnet, by physical structures, electrostatic forces), and droplets lacking beads are dispensed from the reservoir using droplet operations. For example, beads can be washed by dilute-and-dispense strategy whereby a wash buffer is added to the reservoir to dilute the contents, magnetically responsive beads are localized within the reservoir with a magnet and moist of the solution is dispensed front the reservoir, and this cycle is repeated till acceptable levels of washing are achieved.
As an example, washing magnetically responsive beads may generally include the following steps:
(1) providing a droplet comprising magnetically responsive beads and unbound substances in proximity with a magnet;
(2) using droplet operations to combine a wash droplet with the droplet comprising the magnetically responsive beads;
(3) immobilizing the beads by application of a magnetic field;
(4) using droplet operations to remove some or all of the droplet surrounding the beads to yield a droplet comprising the beads with a reduced concentration of unbound components and a droplet comprising unbound components;
(5) releasing the beads by removing the magnetic field; and
(6) repeating steps (2) to (3) or (2) to (4) until a predetermined degree of purification is achieved.
In this manner, unbound substances, such as contaminants, byproducts or excess reagents, can be separated from the beads. Each cycle produces a droplet including the beads but with a decreased level of the unwanted substances. Step (5) is not required in each washing cycle; however, it may be useful to enhance washing by freeing contaminants which may be trapped in the immobilized beads. Steps may be performed in a different order, e.g., steps (2) and (3) may be reversed. Steps in the washing protocol may be accomplished on a droplet actuator using droplet operations as described herein.
In embodiments in which magnetically responsive beads are used, the inventors have found that application of a magnetic field though useful for temporarily immobilizing beads, moving beads and/or positioning beads, sometimes results in unwanted aggregation of the beads. As already noted, in one embodiment, a hydrophilic polymer and/or surfactant is included to prevent or reduce bead aggregation. Hydrophilic polymers and surfactants should be selected and used in amounts which reduce or eliminate bead aggregation and minimize non-specific absorption while at the same time not resulting is significant loss of target analytes or reagents from the droplet. In one embodiment, the hydrophilic polymer and/or surfactant reduces bead clumping in a droplet in a non-gaseous filler fluid and specifically does not serve to reduce molecular adsorption of droplet components to a surface of the droplet actuator.
Another approach to eliminating or reducing clumping aggregation of beads involves the use of smaller numbers of larger beads. Any number of beads which can be contained in a droplet during one or more droplet operations may be used. In some embodiments, the number of magnetically responsible beads can range from 1 to several 100,000'"'"'s. For example, in one embodiment, the invention makes use of one to 100 magnetically responsible beads per droplet. For example, the invention may make use of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 . . . 100 magnetically responsive beads per droplet. In one embodiment, the number of magnetically responsive beads is from one to 10. Use of smaller numbers of magnetically responsive beads permits larger beads to be used. For example, in one embodiment, the invention makes use of one to 100 magnetically responsive beads per droplet, where the beads have an average diameter of about 25 to about 100 microns. In another embodiment the invention makes use of one to 10 magnetically responsive beads per droplet, where the beads have an average diameter of about 50 to about 100 microns.
The foregoing detailed description of embodiments refers to the accompanying drawings, which illustrate specific embodiments of the invention. Other embodiments having different structures and operations do not depart from the scope of the present invention.
This specification is divided into sections for the convenience of the reader only, Headings should not be construed as limiting of the scope of the invention.
It will be understood that various details of the present invention may be changed without departing from the scope of the present invention. Furthermore, the foregoing description is for the purpose of illustration only, and not for the purpose of limitation, as the present invention is defined by the claims as set forth hereinafter.