A novel, inexpensive method for detecting the Zika virus could help slow spread of outbreak, and potentially other future pandemic diseases
An international, multi-institutional team of researchers led by synthetic biologist James Collins, Ph.D., at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, has developed a low-cost, rapid paper-based diagnostic system for strain-specific detection of the Zika virus, with the goal that it could soon be used in the field to screen blood, urine, or saliva samples.
“The growing global health crisis caused by the Zika virus propelled us to leverage novel technologies we have developed in the lab and use them to create a workflow that could diagnose a patient with Zika, in the field, within 2-3 hours,” said Collins, who is a Wyss Core Faculty member, and Termeer Professor of Medical Engineering & Science and Professor of Biological Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s Department of Biological Engineering.
Building off previous work done at Harvard’s Wyss Institute by Collins and his team, along with collaborators from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, Harvard Medical School (HMS), University of Toronto, Arizona State University (ASU), University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison), Boston University (BU), Cornell University, and Addgene, joined their efforts to quickly prototype the rapid diagnostic test and describe their methods in a study published online May 6 in the journal Cell, all within a matter of six weeks. Collins is the paper’s corresponding author.
Emerging innovation during the Ebola health crisis
In October 2014, Collins’ team developed a breakthrough method for embedding synthetic gene networks — which could be used as programmable diagnostics and sensors – on portable, small discs of ordinary paper.
The Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, often referred to as the Broad Institute, is a biomedical and genomic research center located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States.
The institute is independently governed and supported as a 501(c) nonprofit research organization under the name Broad Institute Inc., and is partners with Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and the five Harvard teaching hospitals.
The Broad Institute, formerly the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, evolved from a decade of research collaborations among MIT and Harvard scientists. One cornerstone was the Center for Genome Research of Whitehead Institute at MIT. Founded in 1982, the Whitehead became a major center for genomics and the Human Genome Project. As early as 1995, scientists at the Whitehead started pilot projects in genomic medicine, forming an unofficial collaborative network among young scientists interested in genomic approaches to cancer and human genetics. Another cornerstone was the Institute of Chemistry and Cell Biology established by Harvard Medical School in 1998 to pursue chemical genetics as an academic discipline. Its screening facility was one of the first high-throughput resources opened in an academic setting. It facilitated small molecule screening projects for more than 80 research groups worldwide.
To create a new organization that was open, collaborative, cross-disciplinary and able to organize projects at any scale, planning took place in 2002–2003 among philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad, MIT, the Whitehead Institute, Harvard and the Harvard-affiliated hospitals (in particular, the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Children’s Hospital Boston, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Massachusetts General Hospital).
The Latest Updated Research News:
Broad Institute research articles from Innovation Toronto
- Finding Zika one paper disc at a time in 2 to 3 hours – May 7, 2016
- “Kill switches” shut down engineered bacteria – December 16, 2015
- Broad, MIT scientists overcome key CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing hurdle – Decemiber 2, 2015
- Lifelike cooling for sunbaked windows
- A step closer to artificial livers
- Company Unveils DNA Sequencing Device Meant to Be Portable, Disposable and Cheap
- Breakthrough in diagnosing genetic mitochondrial disease and others
- Drug compound kills breast cancer stem cells
- STEM Education Has Little to Do With Flowers
Synthetic biology technique could make it safer to put engineered microbes to work outside the lab
Many research teams are developing genetically modified bacteria that could one day travel around parts of the human body, diagnosing and even treating infection. The bugs could also be used to monitor toxins in rivers or to improve crop fertilization.
However, before such bacteria can be safely let loose, scientists will need to find a way to prevent them from escaping into the wider environment, where they might grow and cause harm.