Rapid nested-PCR for tyrosinase gene detection on chip

The availability of non-invasive, fast and sensitive technologies for detection of circulating cancer cells is still a critical need of clinical oncology, particularly for diagnosis of aggressive and highly metastatic tumors, like malignant melanoma. Here we present the first nested polymerase chain reaction process carried out by a microfabricated, hybrid plastic–glass microfluidic chip on the tyrosinase gene, a predictive marker for melanoma diagnosis. The device is a hybrid system consisting of a glass microchannel embedded in an elastomeric matrix, and operating in flow-oscillating modality on a droplet of biological sample. The convection heat transfer and the temperature distribution inside the carrier fluid in the device are investigated. The oil responds to temperature changes with a characteristic time around 53 s, and exhibits three different thermal gradients along the capillary, with temperature variations below 4 ◦C in correspondence of heater electrodes. The sample heating/cooling rates in the chip are as high as 16 ◦C/s, allowing rapid processes. The nested polymerase chain reaction process is performed in less than 50 min, namely more than four times faster than in a standard thermocycler. The rapidity of the analysis method, combined with the simple and low-cost fabrication, reduced sample evaporation, and flexibility of the overall microfluidic platform, make it promising for the detection of events of tumor spreading.