CRISPR-Chip Can Detect Genetic Mutations Within Minutes


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Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and the Keck Graduate Institute of The Claremont Colleges have developed a hand-held device that can detect genetic mutations, such as those causing genetic diseases or affecting how people respond to certain drugs, in just minutes. The device employs a combination of CRISPR and graphene transistors to achieve this. The researchers hope that it could make the process of diagnosing genetic conditions and predicting drug responses easier and more accessible, potentially leading to point-of-care DNA analysis.

The researchers have called their device the “CRISPR-Chip” and, unlike traditional DNA analysis techniques, the device does not require a lengthy polymerase chain reaction DNA replication step, saving time. Instead, it uses nanoelectronics to analyze the relatively small amounts of target DNA present in a patient DNA sample.

CRISPR complexes bind to target regions in the DNA sample, resulting in a change in the electrical conductance of highly sensitive graphene transistors, which are then detected using a simple hand-held device. “We have developed the first transistor that uses CRISPR to search your genome for potential mutations,” said Kiana Aran, a researcher involved in the study. “You just put your purified DNA sample on the chip, allow CRISPR to do the search and the graphene transistor reports the result of this search in minutes.”

So far, the research team has tested the device using blood samples from Duchenne muscular dystrophy patients, and successfully detected two common genetic mutations associated with the disease. Point-of-care diagnosis of genetic diseases is an obvious use for the chip, but other applications include drug sensitivity testing.

“If you have certain mutations or certain DNA sequences, that will very accurately predict how you will respond to certain drugs,” said Niren Murthy, another researcher involved in the study. “CRISPR-Chip has the benefit that it is really point of care, it is one of the few things where you could really do it at the bedside if you had a good DNA sample.”

See a video about the device below: