Synthetic biology-based portable in vitro diagnostic platforms
Early diagnosis of infectious diseases represents powerful means to increase patient survival rate, avoid disease spreading, and decrease healthcare costs. Current Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)- and antibody-based diagnostic methods for detecting pathogens offer rapid analysis with highly accurate and specific results. However, those methods are still hampered by the need of sophisticated infrastructures and highly-skilled technicians, which limit the deployment in developing area. Synthetic biology with its rational and short design-to-production cycles has the potential to overcome those limitations. Here, we discuss two promising efforts for pathogen nucleic acids detection using synthetic biology approaches: Synthetic RNA-based and Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats/ CRISPR-associated (CRISPR/Cas)-based biosensors. The two systems were reported to show remarkable specificity and sensitivity on detecting and reporting the presence of pathogen via pathogen nucleic acid recognition with lower development and operational costs when compared to current PCR- and antibody-based diagnostic tools. Moreover, both systems can be applied to paper-based platforms which simplify the distribution and utilization in low resource-settings.
Keywords: In vitro diagnostics, Synthetic biology, RNA-based biosensors, Toehold switch, CRISPR/Cas system