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Nat Protoc. 2011 Oct 20;6(11):1761-74. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2011.400.

Bar-coded hydrogel microparticles for protein detection: synthesis, assay and scanning.

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  • 1Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Chemical Engineering, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.


This protocol describes the core methodology for the fabrication of bar-coded hydrogel microparticles, the capture and labeling of protein targets and the rapid microfluidic scanning of particles for multiplexed detection. Multifunctional hydrogel particles made from poly(ethylene glycol) serve as a sensitive, nonfouling and bio-inert suspension array for the multiplexed measurement of proteins. Each particle type bears a distinctive graphical code consisting of unpolymerized holes in the wafer structure of the microparticle; this code serves to identify the antibody probe covalently incorporated throughout a separate probe region of the particle. The protocol for protein detection can be separated into three steps: (i) synthesis of particles via microfluidic flow lithography at a rate of 16,000 particles per hour; (ii) a 3-4-h assay in which protein targets are captured and labeled within particles using an antibody sandwich technique; and (iii) a flow scanning procedure to detect bar codes and quantify corresponding targets at rates of 25 particles per s. By using the techniques described, single- or multiple-probe particles can be reproducibly synthesized and used in customizable multiplexed panels to measure protein targets over a three-log range and at concentrations as low as 1 pg ml(-1).

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