Microfluidic Stiffness-Dependent Separation of Red Blood Cells for Early Malaria Diagnosis and Surveillance
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The characterization of the mechanical properties of cells has many broad applications since cell elasticity can indicate pathological state. Notably, many diseases cause significant changes in mechanical properties; for example, at the onset of a malaria infection, the invading parasites can strongly affect the elasticity of Red Blood Cells (RBCs) by causing structural changes. Thus, given the difference in mechanical properties between healthy RBCs and infected RBCs (iRBCs), there exists the potential to separate human blood through microfluidics in order to better detect malaria. We report a statistical difference in cell elasticity between RBCs and chemically mimicked iRBCs, which mimic the pathophysiology of malaria infection, through the use of Atomic Force Microscopy. We demonstrate stiffness-dependent separation of RBCs and chemically mimicked iRBCs via microfluidic technology. The successful completion of this technique will directly aid the long-term objective of this project, which is to develop point-of-care microfluidic technologies for malaria diagnosis and population surveillance that improves on the sensitivity of the existing malaria tests.