Faster mpox testing through CRISPR

Feb. 27, 2024
Using gene editing proteins combined with nanopore sensing technology, new research shows that testing for pathogens could become faster and more accessible.

New research suggests a way for faster mpox testing that could be done in any clinic soon.

Md. Ahasan Ahamed, a graduate student mentored by Weihua Guan at Pennsylvania State University presented this research at the 68th Biophysical Society Annual Meeting, held February 10 - 14, 2024 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

To develop a faster test, the researchers used CRISPR, the Nobel-prize winning gene editing technology.

For this study, Ahamed created a genetic sequence combined with a reporter to specifically target the mpox virus. Then a programmable CRISPR RNA binds to both the target and a protein called Cas12a and together, the CRISPR/Cas12a cleaves the reporter to create various sizes of fragments. The researchers can then use nanopore sensing technology to analyze those reporters’ fragments, providing a rapid and accurate test that detects whether or not mpox is present in the sample.

The team confirmed that the test they created is specific to mpox—when they tested samples of cowpox virus, a close relative of mpox, the test did not show a positive result.

The whole process is quick, “in total it takes 32 to 55 minutes to detect the target, depending on viral load,” Ahamed said, which is much faster than it currently takes to test for mpox in a lab using PCR method.

The researchers plan to apply this nanopore technology to create tests for other pathogens, allowing one sample to be tested for multiple targets using portable device.

Biophysical Society release on Newswise