Image: Environmental Nucleic Acid Enhancement Technology Could Lead CRISPR-Based Diagnostics to Low-Resource Conditions (Photo courtesy of Sherlock)
Most nucleic acid diagnostic tests, including currently available SARS-CoV-2 PCR tests, are performed on qPCR instruments that alternate between certain temperatures. To eliminate the need for precise temperature cycles, biomedical researchers have developed so-called “isothermal amplification techniques”, which require heat to activate the enhancing enzymes, but then amplify the nucleic acid sequences to a single, strictly controlled temperature. Now, a new method of environmental amplification can bring unprecedented reliability to molecular detection tests, as it allows maximum gain without thermal activation and over a temperature range, opening up multiple possibilities for point-of-need testing at different temperatures and geographical environments.
Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biological Engineering (Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA) and Sherlock Biosciences (Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA) announced that Sherlock has received an exclusive worldwide license from the Harvard University Office of Technological Development (OTD), which allows nucleic acid molecules to be amplified at room temperature. The company is integrating this method with its CRISPR-based SHERLOCK platform to advance diagnostic assays without tools that can detect disease-related pathogens or nucleic acids at the point of need.
“Many of the diagnostic screening tests we create in the lab for use in resource-limited settings are opening up new horizons because they include a one-of-a-kind methodology that has its roots in synthetic biology,” said James Collins, Ph.D., of the Wyss Institute for faculty founder and co-founder of Sherlock Biosciences. “Although these analyses are capable of detecting a limited amount of target nucleic acids, their results must also be visible to the naked eye to be useful at the time of need. Our newly developed amplification method allows us to amplify nucleic acid molecules that report pathogens or diseases at room temperature, which is an important step in this direction.”
“The highly stable enzyme-based nucleic acid amplification method coming out of Collins’ Wyss Lab will be an important part of our technology platform,” said Brian Dechairo, Ph.D., president and CEO of Sherlock Biosciences. “CRISPR-based SHERLOCK technology can already be used as a diagnostic tool in almost any environment to detect targeted RNA or DNA molecules with high sensitivity and specificity without stringent temperature requirements. By integrating it with this next-generation amplification technology, we will be able to perform the entire process of detection, amplification and visualization at room temperature and, more importantly, without instruments. This unlocks great diagnostic potential for the treatment of infectious diseases in under-resourced settings where access to diagnostics has traditionally been limited.”
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