Cancers and heart disease could be diagnosed more easily with new rapid test

Imperial researchers have built a new easy-to-use test that could diagnose non-infectious diseases like heart attacks and cancers more quickly.

The new test works by detecting molecular signals in the body called biomarkers, which are already used in things like COVID-19 testing where the presence of SARS-CoV-2 genes indicates COVID-19. There are also biomarkers for non-infectious diseases: for example, prostate specific antigen (PSA) in the blood can sometimes act as a biomarker to indicate the presence of prostate cancer.

Diagnostic tests based on RNA or DNA often require controlled temperatures and involve multiple steps. The new test can be used at room temperature in a user-friendly process.

The researchers hope this could enable quicker and easier diagnostics in settings like GP surgeries, as well as in resource-limited clinics in developing countries.

The new test, called CrisprZyme, has been developed by a team of researchers led by Imperial College London, MIT, and Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin. They say the test could boost access to biomarker diagnostics. The results of preliminary lab studies of the test are published today in Nature Nanotechnology.

First author Dr Marta Broto, of Imperial’s Department of Materials, said: “As well as potentially boosting access to diagnostics in developing countries, this technology could bring us a step closer to personalised diagnostics at home or at the GP surgery. By making clinical diagnostic tests simpler, we will be able to provide clinicians with the right tools to test at the same GP surgery instead of having to reschedule for follow-up analyses and blood tests.”

CRISPR-inspired

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