DEC 23, 2020 11:45 AM PST

Smartphone Device Uses CRISPR to Check for COVID

WRITTEN BY: Tara Fernandez

Quick, portable, and ultrasensitive—a new smartphone test for COVID-19 checks all the boxes needed to get a handle on pandemic control efforts. This is a departure from the lab-based RT-PCR assays that detect viral genomic material in nose or throat swabs that currently represent the gold standard.

The study, published in Science Advances, details how scientists leveraged CRISPR technology to develop the new point-of-care diagnostic device. “This test addresses the critical needs for a rapid, ultrasensitive COVID-19 diagnosis along with effective large-scale screening efforts,” said author Tony Hu, from Tulane University School of Medicine.

This innovation uses CRISPR/Cas12a to enhance the signal from viral RNA after stimulation by a laser diode that sits within a smartphone-based readout device. Results are produced in as little as 15 minutes. In the study, the device was found to be more sensitive than the RT-PCR reference assay. Unlike its lab-based counterpart, the device saved time by doing away with the RNA isolation step. It was also able to sensitively detect SARS-CoV-2 in saliva, which could mean an end to nasal swabs that can be uncomfortable for some patients.

 

 

The device joins an ever-growing list of CRISPR-based diagnostic technologies that have emerged in recent years. CRISPR’s remarkable ability to edit and cleave DNA makes it particularly well-suited for its application in diagnosing viral, bacterial, and even non-infectious diseases such as cancer. Several diagnostic tests that use the Cas12 and Cas13 CRISPR enzymes have already been put to the test as COVID-19 tests. Promisingly, these CRISPR diagnostic systems require readily-available reagents and can be used in paper-based lateral flow assays (similar to over-the-counter pregnancy tests), slashing both laboratory and patient costs significantly.

“Our development can quickly identify patients who have the virus, which is required to help address the ongoing threat to public health worldwide,” commented Hu.

Ultimately, the true value of the technology lies in how easy it is to use. “The sensitivity and simplicity of this test, its straightforward sample collection procedure, and the inexpensive nature of the readout device should permit the rapid translation of this approach to COVID-19 testing efforts once we obtain FDA approval,” Hu says.

 

Sources: Science Advances, Tulane University


 

About the Author
  • Tara Fernandez has a PhD in Cell Biology and has spent over a decade uncovering the molecular basis of diseases ranging from skin cancer to obesity and diabetes. She currently works on developing and marketing disruptive new technologies in the biotechnology industry. Her areas of interest include innovation in molecular diagnostics, cell therapies, and immunology. She actively participates in various science communication and public engagement initiatives to promote STEM in the community.
You May Also Like
AUG 19, 2021
Cancer
Vitamin D Reduces Risk of Early-Onset Colorectal Cancer
AUG 19, 2021
Vitamin D Reduces Risk of Early-Onset Colorectal Cancer
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third most diagnosed type of cancer in both men and women in the United States and CRC in ...
SEP 06, 2021
Cancer
A New Biomarker to Personalize Breast Cancer Therapy
SEP 06, 2021
A New Biomarker to Personalize Breast Cancer Therapy
The American Cancer Society estimates that over 280,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer ...
OCT 01, 2021
Health & Medicine
Eppendorf Award 2022: Call for Entries
OCT 01, 2021
Eppendorf Award 2022: Call for Entries
Eppendorf Award 2022: Call for Entries The Eppendorf Award for Young European Investigators, endowed with 20,000 EUR, is ...
OCT 12, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Tiny Fragments of RNA in the Blood Signal Dementia Risk
OCT 12, 2021
Tiny Fragments of RNA in the Blood Signal Dementia Risk
Scientists have discovered a novel biomarker in the blood that acts as an early warning sign for dementia: microRNA. The ...
NOV 08, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Sample Prep Possibilities: How to Gauge Your "Good Enough"
NOV 08, 2021
Sample Prep Possibilities: How to Gauge Your "Good Enough"
As scientists, we can be very uncomfortable with the concept of “good enough”. It feels contrary to everythi ...
NOV 23, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Scientists Enter Uncharted Territory of the Cancer Genome, Emerge Victorious
NOV 23, 2021
Scientists Enter Uncharted Territory of the Cancer Genome, Emerge Victorious
Cancer is a genetic disease—it stems from specific changes in the DNA sequences of the cancer cell genome. Over th ...
Loading Comments...