Purdue University Graduate School
Moehling_Taylor_Dissertation_Final.pdf (12.04 MB)

Portable platforms for molecular-based detection of pathogens in complex sample matrices

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posted on 2020-07-30, 17:29 authored by Taylor J MoehlingTaylor J Moehling
Pathogen identification at the point of use is critical in preventing disease transmission and enabling prompt treatment. Current rapid diagnostic tests suffer from high rates of false negatives because they are not capable of detecting the inherently low concentrations of pathogens found in early stages of infection or in environmental reservoirs. The gold standard method for timely pathogen identification is a nucleic acid amplification assay called polymerase chain reaction. Although polymerase chain reaction is extremely sensitive and specific, it requires expensive laboratory equipment and trained personnel to perform the sample preparation, cyclical heating, and amplicon analysis. Isothermal nucleic acid amplification assays are better suited for field use because they operate at a single temperature and are robust to common sample matrix inhibitors. Thus, there is a need to translate isothermal amplification assays to the point of use for rapid and sensitive detection of pathogens in complex samples.

Here, I outline an approach to bring laboratory-based sample preparation, assays, and analyses to the point of use via portable platforms. First, I characterize a loop-mediated isothermal amplification assay and combine it with lateral flow immunoassay for simple, colorimetric interpretation of results. Next, I optimize an ambient-temperature reagent storage method to eliminate cold-chain requirements and precision pipetting steps. I then incorporate loop-mediated isothermal amplification, lateral flow immunoassay, and reagent drying into two different integrated paperfluidic platforms and demonstrate their ability to separately detect bacteria and viruses in complex sample matrices. Finally, I couple loop-mediated isothermal amplification with particle diffusometry to optically determine pathogen presence by tracking the Brownian motion of particles added to an amplified sample. The combined loop-mediated isothermal amplification and particle diffusometry method is first characterized on a microscope and then translated to a smartphone-based platform. Each of these portable platforms are broadly applicable because they can be easily modified for identification of other pathogens at the point of use.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Biomedical Engineering

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Jacqueline Linnes

Additional Committee Member 2

Tamara Kinzer-Ursem

Additional Committee Member 3

Babak Ziaie

Additional Committee Member 4

Afsar Ali