Scientists develop first paper test for detecting diseases from DNA samples

19 February 2018

Scientists have developed the first inexpensive, miniature paper test for precisely detecting diseases from DNA samples, PTI reported. The tests allow the results to be seen with the naked eye, just like pregnancy tests.

When the paper strip is dipped into a processed sample, a line appears, indicating whether the target molecule was detected or not.

With the test, the amount of target in a sample can be accurately quantified and it can be used for multiple targets at once.

The innovations add to the team's earlier version of SHERLOCK (Specific High Sensitivity Reporter unLOCKing). It also adds to a growing field of research that harnesses CRISPR systems for uses beyond gene editing.

"SHERLOCK provides an inexpensive, easy-to-use, and sensitive diagnostic method for detecting nucleic acid material - and that can mean a virus, tumour DNA, and many other targets," said Feng Zhang, professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US.

"The SHERLOCK improvements now give us even more diagnostic information and put us closer to a tool that can be deployed in real-world applications," said Zhang, senior author of the study published in the journal Science.

The researchers, including those from Harvard University in the US, earlier showcased the utility of  SHERLOCK for a range of applications. Thanks to its versatility in nucleic acid target detection, the team envisions a wide range of uses for SHERLOCK.

''The technology demonstrates potential for many healthcare applications, including diagnosing infections in patients and detecting mutations that confer drug resistance or cause cancer, but it can also be used for industrial and agricultural applications where monitoring steps along the supply chain can reduce waste and improve safety,'' said Zhang.

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