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A new twist on the ELISA test

​Testing for contaminants like gluten in food products no longer needs to be done at a lab. A device developed by CEA-Leti for a food manufacturer automates testing and turns results around in just an hour.

Published on 17 January 2023

​CEA-Leti's fully-automated, fast, and versatile lab-on-a-chip can detect and count proteins, making it ideal for a variety of industrial use cases. Based on a conventional ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) test, CEA-Leti's test can deliver a result in just an hour—much less than the week it takes to send samples out to a lab for analysis.

The credit-card-sized microfluidic chip can be modified to detect biomarkers, insulin, gluten, and many other proteins. Inside it has two wells separated by an elastic membrane. All of the reagents are placed in the machine at once at the start of the test. The chip is then inserted into the machine and the special membrane "pumps" them one by one into the reaction chamber. The patented technology offers precision volume calibration and is very reproducible.

One notable innovation inside the chip: the magnetic beads used to detect antibodies. During the washing steps, a magnetic field is applied to fix the beads, and then deactivated during mixing so that the beads are once again suspended. This novel approach allows the chip to be cleaned and reused. Also worth mentioning is that the chip carries out eight measurements at the same time: two on the sample to be analyzed, and six on solutions containing known concentrations of the protein being tested for. These measurements are used to come up with a range to estimate the protein concentration in the sample and, if necessary, perform a control test to confirm the positive result.

This lab-on-a-chip was developed for a food manufacturer to automate in-line gluten contamination testing in its factories. However, it can be modified to detect other proteins and can also test for several allergens simultaneously.

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