MEMS-based sample preparation for molecular diagnostics
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Completion of the Human Genome Project is driving the rapid development of molecular diagnostics in the laboratory. To accelerate the penetration of genetic tests and other nucleic acid-based tests into clinical markets, simple, compact, automatic sample-preparation systems for molecular diagnostics must be developed. Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) is a promising approach for the development of automated sample preparation for the clinical laboratory or point-of-care setting. This review discusses MEMS-based components that could be applied to the different stages of the sample-preparation process such as cell separation, nucleic acid purification, and nucleic acid amplification. Examples of functional component integration are given. Issues discussed include partitioning of functions between the instrument and disposable unit, methods of propulsion of fluids and particles, vapor and liquid barriers, and sample size. Although further evaluation and development are needed to provide practical solutions to some of these issues, we conclude that MEMS-based components might contribute to some components in a sample-preparation system consisting of modular instruments and disposable units, but will not provide a generic or a totally integrated solution.
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