Though many sectors have been whacked by the Coronavirus-related hurdles in 2020, research and development of the gene editing technology known as CRISPR-Cas9 has continued mostly unabated. Scientists have reached some key milestones in their research into a number genetic blood disorders like sickle cell disease, beta thalassemia, and diabetes over the past couple of months. CRISPR has even managed to be utilized in brand new, low cost COVID-19 test kits, following emergency approval from the FDA.
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CRISPR Tech Scaling Quickly in the COVID-Era
Although the United States has ramped up testing in the past week — averaging nearly 250,000 tests per day, according to the non-profit organization The COVID Tracking Project — there are test shortages and backlogs in some places.
As a result, the US drug regulator has granted its first emergency-use approval for a new coronavirus test that takes advantage of the leading gene-editing technology, CRISPR-Cas9. Nature writes that the agency’s emergency-use authority allows it to make tests and drugs available faster than usual in a public-health emergency. The new diagnostic kit is based on an approach co-developed by CRISPR pioneer Feng Zhang at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
When Zhang’s team tested the technology using synthetic COVID-19 virus RNA fragments, it could consistently detect COVID-19 target sequences in a range between 10-100 copies per microliter of amplified sample.
Zhang, in conjunction with Sherlock Bioscience, used this data to develop their two-step test that uses CRISPR to scan a patient’s saliva or nasal swab for signs of the coronavirus’ genetic code…