Engineering Minute

Engineering Minute – 3D Printed Pipette Tips For ELISA Testing

Researchers at University of Connecticut have 3D printed a specialized pipette tip that reduces the time and expense of performing an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). ELISA is used to test blood and other biological samples for everything from cancer to Lyme disease. Traditional ELISA is performed in an expensive lab set up and requires manual washing of the samples, in a well plate, which can take between five to eight hours. The new 3D printed pipette tip allows for the test to be done in the tip itself, eliminating the need for the well plate and reducing the run time to 90 minutes.


“We didn’t want to make a big change in the traditional ELISA; we just made engineered, controlled changes,” says Mohamed Sharafeldin, research assistant and doctoral student at the University of Connecticut. “So, the basics are the same. We use the same antibodies at the same concentrations that they use with conventional or traditional ELISA, so we are using the same protocols. Anything that can be run by normal ELISA can be run by this, with the advantage of being less expensive, much faster and accessible.”


Mohamed Sharafeldin, holds a unique pipette tip created with a 3D printer.
Mohamed Sharafeldin, holds a unique pipette tip created with a 3D printer. Credit: University of Connecticut

From the University of Connecticut article: "The pipette tips also don’t require an expensive or sophisticated plate reader to determine test results, as ELISA tests do. In the trials with the prostate cancer samples, the pipette tip results were accurately read by taking a cell phone photo and using a free app that measures color intensities in the image.

The benefit, Sharafeldin said, is that the user conducting the test with the pipette tips doesn’t have to be a scientist; they just need simple pipetting instructions, then to take a photograph and send it to a technician who could remotely read the results to help make a diagnosis – potentially providing new, lower-cost testing options in rural or isolated areas where establishing a traditional ELISA lab would prove challenging and expensive.

While additional sample testing is needed, Sharafeldin is optimistic about the future potential for the pipette tip design to reduce costs. He is also engaging with engineers to design an automated, vacuum-assisted pipette that would further ease the use of the pipette tips and the conducting of ELISA tests, and would be available for significantly less cost than traditional ELISA equipment."


Read more about the 3D printed pipette tips for ELISA testing at University of Connecticut