Future microfluidic and nanofluidic modular platforms for nucleic acid liquid biopsy in precision medicine.

Nucleic acid biomarkers have enormous potential in non-invasive diagnostics and disease management. In medical research and in the near future in the clinics, there is a great demand for accurate miRNA, mRNA, and ctDNA identification and profiling. They may lead to screening of early stage cancer that is not detectable by tissue biopsy or imaging. Moreover, because their cost is low and they are non-invasive, they can become a regular screening test during annual checkups or allow a dynamic treatment program that adjusts its drug and dosage frequently. We briefly review a few existing viral and endogenous RNA assays that have been approved by the Federal Drug Administration. These tests are based on the main nucleic acid detection technologies, namely, quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (PCR), microarrays, and next-generation sequencing. Several of the challenges that these three technologies still face regarding the quantitative measurement of a panel of nucleic acids are outlined. Finally, we review a cluster of microfluidic technologies from our group with potential for point-of-care nucleic acid quantification without nucleic acid amplification, designed to overcome specific limitations of current technologies. We suggest that integration of these technologies in a modular design can offer a low-cost, robust, and yet sensitive/selective platform for a variety of precision medicine applications.

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