Development of Microfluidic Technologies for Novel Analysis of Fingermark Deposits and Unique Approaches to the Detection of SARS-CoV-2

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Marshall, Jamila, Chemistry - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Landers, James, AS-Chemistry (CHEM), University of Virginia

Despite the development of innovative, state-of-the-art instrumentation based on the constant expansion of our scientific knowledge base, there is a deficit regarding the availability of field-deployable, low-cost, rapid, and sensitive apparatus for forensic and clinical analyses. Diagnostic and confirmatory tests remain primarily restricted to centralized laboratory settings and benchtop instrumentation, thereby creating strain on resources, multistep, laborious, and time-consuming processes requiring considerable operator input, and limited engagement with the communities dependent on the outcomes. Regarding forensic analyses, specifically, the reliance on laboratories for the processing and evaluation of items of potential evidentiary significance can result in delays that hinder time-sensitive criminal investigations and impede the apprehension of perpetrators.
Microfluidic technologies provide an attractive solution to this unmet need by virtue of their inherent advantages. These include the potential for portable, low-cost, rapid, automated, and integrated systems which are operable at the point of need or at the scene of a criminal investigation. This dissertation describes work towards the realization of micro total analysis systems (µTAs) for various applications.
The development of a microdevice for the identification of the biological sex of a perpetrator via assessment of biomarkers derived from fingermark deposits at the scene of a crime is detailed in Chapter 2. The research discussed in Chapter 3 pivots from the forensic application of microfluidic technology to clinical utilization – the rapid SARS-CoV-2 virus enrichment and RNA extraction for largescale diagnostic screening of clinical samples are explored therein. Along this vein, Chapter 4 details the optimization of a diagnostic protocol for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 using an ultra-rapid microfluidic PCR instrument. Finally, this concept is expanded to explore the analysis of a bacterial target in Chapter 5, where the diagnosis of whooping cough is adapted to the ultra-rapid instrument via proof-of-concept experiments. Potential future directions, obstacles, and the anticipated broader societal impact of these developments on the field are summarized in the final chapter.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Microfluidics, Fingermark Deposits, Rapid PCR, Infectious Diseases, SARS-CoV-2, Pertussis, Latent Fingermarks, Molecular Diagnostics, Forensics
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