Theranostics 2019; 9(9):2637-2645. doi:10.7150/thno.32224

Research Paper

Synergistically enhanced colorimetric molecular detection using smart cup: a case for instrument-free HPV-associated cancer screening

Kun Yin1, Vikram Pandian1, Karteek Kadimisetty1, Carlos Ruiz1, Kumarasen Cooper2, Jianxin You3, Changchun Liu1,4✉

1. Department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, University of Pennsylvania, 220 South 33rd St. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104-6315, USA
2. Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, 3400 Spruce St. Philadelphia, PA 19104-4283, USA
3. Department of Microbiology, University of Pennsylvania, 3610 Hamilton Walk, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6076, USA
4. Present address: Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Connecticut Health Center, 263 Farmington Avenue, Farmington, CT 06030, USA

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY-NC) license ( See for full terms and conditions.
Yin K, Pandian V, Kadimisetty K, Ruiz C, Cooper K, You J, Liu C. Synergistically enhanced colorimetric molecular detection using smart cup: a case for instrument-free HPV-associated cancer screening. Theranostics 2019; 9(9):2637-2645. doi:10.7150/thno.32224. Available from

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Rationale: Early and accurate detection of disease is crucial for its prevention, identification, and treatment. However, most of disease diagnostics is still limited in clinical laboratories due to the need of complicated instruments and professional personnel. Herein, we reported a smartphone-based synergistically enhanced colorimetric method for molecular diagnostics in our point of care (POC) smart cup platform.

Methods: A disposable microfluidic chip was developed for colorimetric loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) detection of multiple HPV DNA in our POC smart cup platform. The colorimetric detection takes advantage of synergistic effect of PPi4- and H+ ions, two byproducts of LAMP reaction. Color signal of LAMP assay was recorded and analyzed by our custom Android app (dubbed “Hue Analyzer”).

Results: Our method not only significantly improves colorimetric readout, but also provides a 10-fold increase in detection sensitivity. It has been successfully applied for HPV-associated cancer screening with spiked saliva and clinical swab samples.

Conclusion: The proposed POC diagnostic platform is completely compatible with other nucleic acid biomarkers and has great potential for personalized health monitoring and disease prevention.

Keywords: synergistic enhancing effect, hue based colorimetric detection, point-of-care testing, HPV-associated cancer screening