This article was originally published here
Biosens Bioelectron. 2021 Feb 20;180:113088. doi: 10.1016/j.bios.2021.113088. Online ahead of print.
Serial measurement of a large panel of protein biomarkers near the bedside could provide a promising pathway to transform the critical care of acutely ill patients. However, attaining the combination of high sensitivity and multiplexity with a short assay turnaround poses a formidable technological challenge. Here, the authors develop a rapid, accurate, and highly multiplexed microfluidic digital immunoassay by incorporating machine learning-based autonomous image analysis. The assay has achieved 12-plexed biomarker detection in sample volume <15 μL at concentrations < 5 pg/mL while only requiring a 5-min assay incubation, allowing for all processes from sampling to result to be completed within 40 min. The assay procedure applies both a spatial-spectral microfluidic encoding scheme and an image data analysis algorithm based on machine learning with a convolutional neural network (CNN) for pre-equilibrated single-molecule protein digital counting. This unique approach remarkably reduces errors facing the high-capacity multiplexing of digital immunoassay at low protein concentrations. Longitudinal data obtained for a panel of 12 serum cytokines in human patients receiving chimeric antigen receptor-T (CAR-T) cell therapy reveals the powerful biomarker profiling capability. The assay could also be deployed for near-real-time immune status monitoring of critically ill COVID-19 patients developing cytokine storm syndrome.