Category Archives: Disease

CRISPR platform targets RNA and DNA to detect cancer, Zika


Broad and Wyss scientists have used an RNA-targeting CRISPR enzyme to detect  the presence of as little as a single target molecule. SHERLOCK (Specific High Sensitivity Enzymatic Reporter UnLOCKing) could one day be used to respond to viral and bacterial outbreaks, monitor antibiotic resistance, and detect cancer.

Demonstrated applications included:

  • Detecting the presence of Zika virus in patient blood or urine samples within hours;
  • Distinguishing between the genetic sequences of African and American strains of Zika virus;
  • Discriminating specific types of bacteria, such as E. coli;
  • Detecting antibiotic resistance genes;
  • Identifying cancerous mutations in simulated cell-free DNA fragments; and
  • Rapidly reading human genetic information, such as risk of heart disease, from a saliva sample.

The tool can be paper-based, not requiring refrigeration, and suited for fast deployment at field hospitals or rural clinics.

Join ApplySci at Wearable Tech + Digital Health + NeuroTech Boston – Featuring: Joi Ito, Ed Boyden, Roz Picard, George Church, Tom Insel, John Rogers, Jamshid Ghajar, Phillip Alvelda and Nathan Intrator – September 19, 2017 at the MIT Media Lab

HIV, hepatitis, herpes, cancer detecting nanosensor


Dmitry Fedyanin and Yury Stebunov from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology have developed a highly sensitive  biological object detecting nanosensor.

The tiny sensor analyzes the chemical composition of substances and can detect viral disease markers in HIV, hepatitis, and herpes.  It can also help doctors identify tumor markers.

The optical sensor can track changes of  a few kilodaltons in the mass of a cantilever in real time.  The researchers believe that this can help diagnose diseases long before they can be detected by other methods.


Single blood drop test for 1000 current or previous viruses


VirScan allows simultaneous testing for 1,000 virus strains that currently or have previously infected a person, using one drop of blood. The  research, from Howard Hughes Medical Institute,  Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Harvard,  describes the interplay between immunity and the human virome.

In the study, blood samples from 600 people in Peru, the United States, South Africa and Thailand were tested. The team developed and used a library of peptides representing more than 1,000 viral strains to find evidence of previous viral exposure. Rates of exposure varied by age, geographic location and HIV status, but the team found that a small number of peptides were recognized by the vast majority of people’s immune systems. This pattern, suggesting that the immune systems of many individuals touch upon the same protein portion in a virus, could have implications for understanding immunity.

VirScan may also help researchers find correlations between previous virus exposure and the development of a disease later in life.


Suit, patch allow doctors to safely treat Ebola patients


At SXSW this week, USAID unveiled a biomedical suit and a wearable sensor patch to protect doctors while treating Ebola patients.

The John’s Hopkins developed suit takes two minutes to put on.  It has anti-fogging capabilities and will contain a cooling system, allowing doctors to wear it for longer periods.  Past protective suits took 30 minutes to put on, were hot and uncomfortable, and could only be worn for 45 minutes.

The MultiSense Memory patch described at the conference will enable doctors to remotely monitor patients.  It is flexible , has multiple sensors, and attaches to a patient’s sternum with adhesive.  The device takes baseline heart rate, temp and oxygen saturation readings, and measures all changes.  The prototype uses a USB cable to transmit data, but the patch will use Bluetooth.   It will cost $100 and will have 7 to 10 days of battery life. The average Ebola case runs its course in five days.

Results of USAID’s Grand Challenge to Fight Ebola also include:

  • Aquarius GEP LLC and Innovative BioDefense
    Antiseptic that, when applied to skin, provides up to six hours of pathogen protection and serves as an anti-microbial barrier to viral transmission for health care workers
  • SPR Advanced Technologies, Inc.
    Long-lasting, spray-on barrier that kills and repels microbes with electro-static fields to prevent surface contamination and allow for more breathable PPE materials

Wearable Tech + Digital Healthy NYC 2015 – June 30 @ New York Academy of Sciences.  Early registration rate available until March 27.