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Compact CRISPR system for portable COVID-19 testing

A new form of CRISPR technology that takes advantage of a compact RNA-editing protein could lead to improved diagnostic tests for COVID-19.

The platform, developed by a team from King Abdullah University of Science & Technology in Saudi Arabia, uses a miniature form of the Cas13 protein that some microbes use to defend themselves from viruses. This RNA-cutting enzyme can be designed to cleave any target sequence, including parts of the genome from SARS-CoV-2.

By pairing the Cas13 system with a simple nucleic acid amplification method, a handheld optical reader and a smartphone, the researchers created a low-cost, point-of-care test that could accurately diagnose COVID-19 from throat and nose swab samples taken from patients.

The approach proved reliable and accurate with a fast turnaround time, from clinical sampling to a diagnostic result in just a few hours. A COVID-19 test represents just one potential application of the technology. Other diagnostic or therapeutic uses could soon follow.

Image credit | iStock


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