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 relies on 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, the novel coronavirus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic.
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.