Wonderful Engineering

MIT Duo Develops $6 CRISPR Coronavirus Detection Test

A duo of MIT researchers has come up with a new coronavirus test that relies on gene-hacking tech – CRISPR – for ascertaining if someone has the disease. The best thing? The device costs only $6 to make as per the descriptions provided on a website that is dedicated to their project.

MIT started this work to come up with the design and production of a coronavirus test that was as cheap and as self-contained as it possibly could be without any compromise on the quality. The end result is a two-step test that relies on the use of CRISPR for scanning the patients’ saliva or nasal swabs to look for the signs for the genetic code responsible for COVID-19.

Feng Zhang who is one of the researchers at the Broad Institute and MIT that developed the test said, ‘We’re excited that this could be a solution that people won’t have to rely on a sophisticated and expensive laboratory to run.’ It is still awaiting approval for clinical use as per the MIT team’s website. The test has, however, performed exceptionally well in its initial experiments. However, the scope of this CRISPR based test was limited – it was administered to only 12 confirmed coronavirus patients along with a control group of five healthy persons.

So, how does this test run? The two-step process works by collecting the patient’s saliva or nasal swab and placing it in a tube that has chemicals that can eviscerate the viruses. The chemical yield from this is then dropped into another tube that has been filled using CRISPR molecules that can hunt down the coronavirus. The second test tube has to remain at about 60 degrees Celsius for an hour. The test is quite similar to the at-home pregnancy test.

The researchers behind this test have said that they are in talks with manufacturers to mass-produce one-vial version of this CRISPR test.