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Sensitivity enhancement of lateral flow assay by embedding cotton threads in paper

  • Su-Feng Zhang
  • Li-Na Liu
  • Rui-Hua TangEmail author
  • Zhi Liu
  • Xiao-Cong He
  • Zhi-Guo Qu
  • Fei LiEmail author
Original Research


Lateral flow assays (LFAs) have been extensively used as point-of-care testing platforms because they are inexpensive, portable, simple, and rapid, which particularly improve their availability in resource-poor settings. However, the poor sensitivity of LFAs restricts their further applications. Herein, we proposed a novel and simple method to enhance the detection sensitivity of LFAs by embedding cotton thread-based barriers into paper and further integrating them into strips to decrease the flow rate of sample and extend the reaction time. The number and hydrophilicity of the embedded cotton threads were sequentially optimized. The flow rate of liquid in cotton thread-embedded LFAs was mathematically simulated using a circuit-like model and the simulation results are consistent with the experimental results. With using human immunodeficiency virus nucleic acid as a model target, the cotton thread-embedded LFAs presented a fourfold enhancement in detection sensitivity compared to that of the unmodified LFAs. The strategy of embedding cotton threads into paper possesses great potential for fabricating other paper-based microfluidic devices in the future.

Graphic abstract


Lateral flow assays (LFAs) Hydrophobic barrier Cotton threads Detection sensitivity Flow rate 



This work was financially supported by the Key scientific research plan (Key Laboratory) of Shaanxi Provincial Education Department (17JS016), International Joint Research Center for Biomass Chemistry and Materials, Shaanxi International Science and Technology Cooperation Base (2018GHJD-19), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (21808132), the General Financial Grant from the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (2016M592773, 2018M633525), the Natural Science Research Foundation of Shaanxi University of Science & Technology (2017BJ-35), the Project of Shaanxi Provincial Education Department (18JK0096) and the Key Program for Science and Technology Innovative Research Team in Shaanxi Province of China (2017KCT-22).

Supplementary material

10570_2019_2677_MOESM1_ESM.docx (2.7 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 2743 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Shaanxi Provincial Key Laboratory of Papermaking Technology and Specialty Paper Development, National Demonstration Center for Experimental Light Chemistry Engineering EducationShaanxi University of Science and TechnologyXi’anPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Bioinspired Engineering and Biomechanics Center (BEBC)Xi’an Jiaotong UniversityXi’anPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.The Key Laboratory of Biomedical Information Engineering of Ministry of Education, School of Life Science and TechnologyXi’an Jiaotong UniversityXi’anPeople’s Republic of China
  4. 4.Key Laboratory of Thermo-Fluid Science and Engineering of Ministry of Education, School of Energy and Power EngineeringXi’an Jiaotong UniversityXi’anPeople’s Republic of China

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