Despite recent advancements, many highly sensitive diagnostic tests for viral diseases still require complicated techniques to prepare a sample or interpret a result, making them impractical for point-of-care settings or areas with few resources. But now, a team reporting in ACS Central Science < http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acscentsci.2c01467 > has developed a sensitive method that analyzes viral nucleic acids in as little as 20 minutes and can be completed in one step with “glow-in-the-dark” proteins.
The firefly’s flash, the anglerfish’s glowing lure and the ghostly blue of phytoplankton-covered beaches are all powered by the same scientific phenomenon known as bioluminescence. A chemical reaction involving the luciferase protein causes the luminescent, glow-in-the-dark effect. The luciferase protein has been incorporated into sensors that emit an easily observed light when they find their target. This simplicity makes these types of sensors ideal for point-of-care testing, but so far, they’ve lacked the incredibly high sensitivity required of a clinical diagnostic test. The gene-editing technique known as CRISPR could provide this ability, but it requires many steps and additional specialized equipment to detect what can be a low signal in a complex, noisy sample. So, Maarten Merkx and colleagues wanted to use CRISPR-related proteins, but combine them with a bioluminescence technique whose signal could be detected with just a digital camera.