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Journal: Analytical chemistry


A microfluidic device was developed to separate heterogeneous particle or cell mixtures in a continuous flow using acoustophoresis. In this device, two identical surface acoustic waves (SAWs) generated by interdigital transducers (IDTs) propagated toward a microchannel, which accordingly built up a standing surface acoustic wave (SSAW) field across the channel. A numerical model, coupling a piezoelectric effect in the solid substrate and acoustic pressure in the fluid, was developed to provide a better understanding of SSAW-based particle manipulation. It was found that the pressure nodes across the channel were individual planes perpendicular to the solid substrate. In the separation experiments, two side sheath flows hydrodynamically focused the injected particle or cell mixtures into a very narrow stream along the centerline. Particles flowing through the SSAW field experienced an acoustic radiation force that highly depends on the particle properties. As a result, dissimilar particles or cells were laterally attracted toward the pressure nodes at different magnitudes, and were eventually switched to different outlets. Two types of fluorescent microspheres with different sizes were successfully separated using the developed device. In addition, E. coli bacteria pre-mixed in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were also efficiently isolated using the SSAW-base separation technique. Flow cytometric analysis on the collected samples found that the purity of separated E. coli bacteria was 95.65%.

Concepts: Protein, Bacteria, Escherichia coli, Acoustics, PBMC, Microphone, Transducers, Surface acoustic wave


The recent outbreak of Zika virus (ZIKV) infection in the Americas and its devastating impact on fetal development have prompted WHO to declare the ZIKV pandemic as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. Rapid and reliable diagnostics for ZIKV are vital since ZIKV-infected individuals display no symptoms or nonspecific symptoms similar to other viral infections. Since immunoassays lack adequate sensitivity and selectivity and are unable to identify active state of infection, molecular diagnostics are an effective means to detect ZIKV soon after infection and throughout pregnancy. We report on a highly sensitive reverse transcription-loop mediated, isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP) assay for rapid detection of ZIKV and on the assay implementation in a simple, easy to use, inexpensive, point of care (POC), disposable cassette that carries out all the unit operations from sample introduction to detection. For thermal control of the cassette, we use a chemically-heated cup without a need for any electrical power. Detection is carried out with leuco crystal violet (LCV) dye by eye, thus eliminating the need for any instrumentation. We demonstrated the utility of our POC diagnostic system by detecting ZIKV in oral samples with sensitivity of 5 plaque-forming units (PFU) in less than 40 min. Our system is particularly suitable for resource poor settings, where centralized laboratory facilities, funds, and trained personnel are in short supply, and for use in doctors' offices and at home.

Concepts: Inflammation, Pregnancy, Disease, Infectious disease, Virus, Infection, Sensitivity and specificity, Selectivity


Earthquakes are lethal natural disasters frequently burying people alive under collapsed buildings. Tracking entrapped humans from their unique volatile chemical signature with hand-held devices would accelerate urban search and rescue (USaR) efforts. Here, a pilot study is presented with compact and orthogonal sensor arrays to detect the breath- and skin-emitted metabolic tracers acetone, ammonia, isoprene, CO2and relative humidity (RH), all together serving as sign of life. It consists of three nanostructured metal-oxide sensors (Si-doped WO3, Si-doped MoO3and Ti-doped ZnO), each specifically tailored at the nanoscale for highly sensitive and selective tracer detection along with commercial CO2and humidity sensors. When tested on humans enclosed in plethysmography chambers to simulate entrapment, this sensor array rapidly detected sub-ppm acetone, ammonia and isoprene concentrations with high accuracies (19, 21 and 3 ppb, respectively) and precision, unprecedented by portable sensors but required for USaR. These results were in good agreement (Pearson’s correlation coefficients ≥ 0.9) with bench-top selective reagent ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (SRI-TOF-MS). As a result, an inexpensive sensor array is presented that can be integrated readily into hand-held or even drone-carried detectors for first responders to rapidly screen affected terrain.

Concepts: Mass spectrometry, Humidity, Relative humidity, Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient, Sensor, Sensors, Time-of-flight


The material analyzed in this study is probably the most ancient archaeological solid residue of cheese ever found to date. The sample was collected during the Saqqara Cairo University excavations in the tomb of Ptahmes dated to XIX dynasty. Our biomolecular proteomic characterization of this archaeological sample shows that the constituting material was a dairy product obtained by mixing sheep/goat and cow milk. The interactions for thousands of years with the strong alkaline environment of the incorporating soil rich in sodium carbonate and the desertic conditions did not prevent the identification of specific peptide mark-ers which showed high stability under these stressing conditions. Moreover, the presence of Brucella melitensis has been attested by specific peptide markers providing a direct biomolecular evidence of the presence of this infection in the Ramesside period for which only indirect paleopathological evidence has been so far provided. Finally, it’s worth noting that, although proteomic approaches are successfully and regularly used to characterize modern biological samples, their application in ancient materials is still at an early stage of progress, only few results being reported about ancient food samples. In the absence of previous rel-evant evidences of cheese production and/or use, this study, undoubtedly has a clear added value in different fields of knowledge ranging from archaeometry, anthropology, archaeology, medicine history to the forensic sciences.


We present a proof-of-concept demonstration of an all-printed temporary tattoo-based glucose sensor for noninvasive glycemic monitoring. The sensor represents the first example of an easy-to-wear flexible tattoo-based epidermal diagnostic device combining reverse iontophoretic extraction of interstitial glucose and an enzyme-based amperometric biosensor. In-vitro studies reveal the tattoo sensor’s linear response toward physiologically relevant glucose levels with negligible interferences from common coexisting electroactive species. The iontophoretic-biosensing tattoo platform is reduced to practice by applying the device on human subjects and monitoring variations in glycemic levels due to food consumption. Correlation of the sensor response with that of a commercial glucose meter underscores the promise of the tattoo sensor to detect glucose levels in a noninvasive fashion. Control on-body experiments demonstrate the importance of the reverse iontophoresis operation and validate the sensor specificity. This preliminary investigation indicates that the tattoo-based iontophoresis-sensor platform holds considerable promise for efficient diabetes management and can be extended toward noninvasive monitoring of other physiologically relevant analytes present in the interstitial fluid.

Concepts: Nutrition, Diabetes mellitus, Glucose, Diabetes, Blood sugar, Demonstration, Blood glucose monitoring, Glucose meter


Thermal processes are widely used in small molecule chemical analysis and metabolomics for derivatization, vaporization, chromatography, and ionization especially in gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC/MS). In this study the effect of heating was examined on a set of 64 small molecule standards and, separately, on human plasma metabolites. The samples, either derivatized or underivatized, were heated at three different temperatures (60, 100, and 250°C) at different exposure times (30s, 60s, and 300s). All the samples were analyzed by liquid chromatography coupled to electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (LC/MS) and the data processed by XCMS Online ( The results showed that heating at an elevated temperature of 100°C had an appreciable effect on both the underivatized and derivatized molecules, and heating at 250°C created substantial changes in the profile. For example, over 40% of the molecular peaks were altered in the plasma metabolite analysis after heating (250°C, 300s) with a significant formation of upregulated, degradation and transformation products. Derivatized samples were similarly affected by thermal degradation. The analysis of the 64 small molecule standards validated the temperature-induced changes observed on the plasma metabolites, where most of the small molecules degraded at elevated temperatures even after minimal exposure times (30s). For example, tri- and di-organophosphates (e.g., adenosine triphosphate and adenosine diphosphate) were readily degraded into a mono-organophosphate (e.g., adenosine monophosphate) during heating. Nucleosides and nucleotides (e.g., inosine and inosine monophosphate) were also found to be transformed into purine derivatives (e.g., hypoxanthine). A newly formed transformation product, oleoyl ethyl amide, was also identified in both the underivatized and derivatized of the plasma metabolites and small molecule standard mixture, and was likely generated from reaction(s) with oleic acid. Overall these analyses show that small molecules and metabolites undergo significant time-sensitive alterations when exposed to elevated temperatures, especially those conditions consistent with GC/MS experiments.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Metabolism, Adenosine triphosphate, Mass spectrometry, Chemistry, Chromatography, Electrospray ionization


Synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists (SCRAs), termed “Spice” or “K2”, are molecules that emulate the effects of the active ingredient of marijuana, and they have gained enormous popularity over the past decade. SCRAs are Schedule 1 drugs that are highly prevalent in the U.K. prison system and among homeless populations. SCRAs are highly potent and addictive. With no way to determine the dose/amount at the point-of care, they pose severe health risks to users, including psychosis, stroke, epileptic seizures, and they can kill. SCRAs are chemically diverse, with over a hundred compounds used as recreational drugs. The chemical diversity of SCRA structures presents a challenge in developing detection modalities. Typically, GC-MS is used for chemical identification; however, this cannot be in place in most settings where detection is critical, e.g., in hospital Emergency Departments, in custody suites/prisons, or among homeless communities. Ideally, real time, point-of-care identification of SCRAs is desirable to direct the care pathway of overdoses and provide information for informed consent. Herein, we show that fluorescence spectral fingerprinting can be used to identify the likely presence of SCRAs, as well as provide more specific information on structural class and concentration (∼1 μg mL-1). We demonstrate that that fluorescence spectral fingerprints, combined with numerical modeling, can detect both parent and combusted material, and such fingerprinting is also practical for detecting them in oral fluids. Our proof-of-concept study suggests that, with development, the approach could be useful in a range of capacities, notably in harm reduction for users of Spice/K2.


The painter, Vincent van Gogh, and some of his contemporaries frequently made use of the pigment chrome yellow that is known to show a tendency toward darkening. This pigment may correspond to various chemical compounds such as PbCrO(4) and PbCr(1-x)S(x)O(4), that may each be present in various crystallographic forms with different tendencies toward degradation. Investigations by X-ray diffraction (XRD), mid-Fourier Transform infrared (FTIR), and Raman instruments (benchtop and portable) and synchrotron radiation-based micro-XRD and X-ray absorption near edge structure spectroscopy performed on oil-paint models, prepared with in-house synthesized PbCrO(4) and PbCr(1-x)S(x)O(4), permitted us to characterize the spectroscopic features of the various forms. On the basis of these results, an extended study has been carried out on historic paint tubes and on embedded paint microsamples taken from yellow-orange/pale yellow areas of 12 Van Gogh paintings, demonstrating that Van Gogh effectively made use of different chrome yellow types. This conclusion was also confirmed by in situ mid-FTIR investigations on Van Gogh’s Portrait of Gauguin (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam).

Concepts: Vincent van Gogh, Van Gogh Museum


Over the past years a number of studies have described the instability of the pigment cadmium yellow (CdS). In a previous paper we have shown how cadmium sulfide on paintings by James Ensor oxidizes to CdSO(4)·H(2)O. The degradation process gives rise to the fading of the bright yellow color and the formation of disfiguring white crystals that are present on the paint surface in approximately 50 μm sized globular agglomerations. Here, we study cadmium yellow in the painting “Flowers in a blue vase” by Vincent van Gogh. This painting differs from the Ensor case in the fact that (a) a varnish was superimposed onto the degraded paint surface and (b) the CdS paint area is entirely covered with an opaque crust. The latter obscures the yellow color completely and thus presents a seemingly more advanced state of degradation. Analysis of a cross-sectioned and a crushed sample by combining scanning microscopic X-ray diffraction (μ-XRD), microscopic X-ray absorption near-edge spectroscopy (μ-XANES), microscopic X-ray fluorescence (μ-XRF) based chemical state mapping and scanning microscopic Fourier transform infrared (μ-FT-IR) spectrometry allowed unravelling the complex alteration pathway. Although no crystalline CdSO(4) compounds were identified on the Van Gogh paint samples, we conclude that the observed degradation was initially caused by oxidation of the original CdS pigment, similar as for the previous Ensor case. However, due to the presence of an overlying varnish containing lead-based driers and oxalate ions, secondary reactions took place. In particular, it appears that upon the photoinduced oxidation of its sulfidic counterion, the Cd(2+) ions reprecipitated at the paint/varnish interface after having formed a complex with oxalate ions that themselves are considered to be degradation products of the resin and/or oil in the varnish. The SO(4)(2-) anions, for their part, found a suitable reaction partner in Pb(2+) ions stemming from a dissolved lead-based siccative that was added to the varnish to promote its drying. The resulting opaque anglesite compound in the varnish, in combination with the underlying CdC(2)O(4) layer at the paint/varnish interface, account for the orange-gray crust that is disfiguring the painting on a macroscopic level. In this way, the results presented in this paper demonstrate how, through a judicious combined use of several microanalytical methods with speciation capabilities, many new insights can be obtained from two minute, but highly complex and heterogeneous paint samples.

Concepts: Spectroscopy, Cadmium, Pigment, Cadmium sulfide, Expressionism, Vincent van Gogh, Cadmium pigments, Les XX


With the potential for each droplet to act as a unique reaction vessel, droplet microfluidics is a powerful tool for high-throughput discovery. Any attempt at compound screening miniaturization must address the significant scaling inefficiencies associated with library handling and distribution. Eschewing microplate-based compound collections for one-bead-one-compound (OBOC) combinatorial libraries, we have developed hνSABR (Light-Induced and -Graduated High-Throughput Screening After Bead Release), a microfluidic architecture that integrates a suspension hopper for sedimentation-mediated compound library bead introduction, droplet generation, microfabricated waveguides that precisely irradiate (365 nm) the droplet flow and photochemically cleave the compound from the bead to dose the droplet, incubation, and laser-induced fluorescence for assay readout. Avobenzone-doped PDMS (0.6% w/w) patterning confines UV exposure to the desired illumination region, generating in-droplet compound concentrations (> 10 µM) that are reproducible between devices. Beads displaying photocleavable pepstatin A were distributed into droplets and exposed with 5 different UV intensities to demonstrate dose-response screening in an HIV-1 protease activity assay. This microfluidic architecture introduces a new analytical approach for OBOC library screening, and represents a key component of a next-generation distributed small molecule discovery platform.

Concepts: HIV, Fluorescence, Molecule, Chemistry, Surface tension, Drug discovery, Compound management, Pepsin