Biotech Updates

UC San Diego Researchers Develop CRISPR-based Rapid Diagnostic Tool for SARS-CoV-2

November 10, 2021

Study lead author Dan Brogan (left) and coauthor Calvin Lin review results from a SENSR reaction using a light cycler qPCR machine. Photo by Michelle Fredricks, UC San Diego Physical Sciences

Researchers from the University of California San Diego have created a rapid diagnostic technology that detects SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The new SENSR (sensitive enzymatic nucleic acid sequence reporter) was developed using CRISPR gene editing technology that allows speedy detection of pathogens by identifying genetic sequences in their DNA or RNA. While many human pathogens are detected using the highly accurate and sensitive real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT PCR), the process is time-consuming and requires specialized laboratory equipment. SENSR is designed to simplify the SARS-CoV-2 detection process with the goal of eventual adaptation for in-home use. SENSR is also the first SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic to leverage the Cas13d enzyme (specifically a ribonuclease effector called "CasRx").

Early tests in SENSR's development showed SARS-CoV-2 detection in less than an hour. The researchers note that the technology has the potential to become a powerful molecular diagnostic tool with numerous applications.

For more details, read the article in UC San Diego News Center.

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