Researchers from New York have developed a microfluidic device that analyzes blood to detect Ebola RNA more quickly than existing tests. The technology could be used to develop a low-cost point-of-care system and biochemistry array for in-field pathogen diagnosis.
Developed by researcher Ke Du, PhD, at the Rochester Institute of Technology, the device uses clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) gene-editing technology to monitor and detect RNA markers for Ebola, a highly contagious virus for which there are limited treatments. Individuals in areas where Ebola infections are common are often required to take a blood test before they can travel.
Du's device is a small, automated chip with a fluorescence sensing unit embedded into it. Du and colleagues have found that the device can detect Ebola RNA in test environments within five minutes by combining automated sample processing, fluorescence sensing, and a unique CRISPR-Cas13a assay originated from a bacterial adaptive immune system.
Du envisions the device being used by medical personnel to quickly identify people infected with contagious diseases; hundreds of devices could be taken into the field, he believes. Detecting multiple virus strains from Ebola to influenza and zika could also be possible.
Du is leading a multidisciplinary team of engineers and biochemists who are developing the rapid point-of-care system. The device is the subject of a paper published in the April edition of ACS Sensors.