CRISPR proves to be a blessing for LASSA fever

The ability of CRISPR to change an organism’s DNA has lead researchers, particularly from Nigeria to use the tool to perform diagnostic tests.

Since CRISPR therapeutics is all about targeting the genome-specific sequence, the test is believed to pinpoint the exact viral strain circulating.

The recent epidemic of Lassa fever in Nigeria resulted in researchers to weigh the probability of using a diagnostic test based on gene editing tool CRISPR. The test basically is based on finding the genetic snippet, RNA of Lassa virus in case of Lassa fever. The approach behind is to hunt down a wide range of viral infections to help in treating them early and effectively. For diagnosing any illness, it requires latest and sophisticated equipment, peculiar expertise and electricity in abundance. And unfortunately, all of these pre-requisites are scanty in places affected by Lassa fever. Here, CRISPR based diagnostic-test will come handy. As it promises to offer accurate results using some simple methods. There are trials being run by Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, to use Cas13 enzyme, which identifies the genetic sequence, to target and then starts to slice them up into pieces, unlike Cas9 protein. Ultimately this would be a blessing as it will serve as a signal for the job being done. A diagnostic test called SHERLOCK, by Broad team has been updated by adding RNA molecules which when cut by Cas13 forms Dark bands on a paper strip. The test costs half the price paid for running a PCR and is time-saving at the same time. SHERLOCK at the same time is immune to power cuts which are pervasive in Nigeria.

Other CRISPR tools.

Studies to use CRISPR diagnostic test for Dengue viruses, Ebola Viruses, Cancer-associated Human papillomaviruses (HPV) and Zika viruses are in progress as well.

Researchers at Berkeley are using different Cas proteins with different properties to target various illnesses. The Diagnostic test used to target HPV uses Cas12a instead of Cas13. The task of including Cas14 and CasX in the tests is being worked upon as well.

As of today, the CRISPR gene editing tool is proving to be a godsend.

REFERENCE: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-00601-3

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