Low-cost Test Detects Delta Variant in Saliva

The most accurate COVID-19 tests require laboratory equipment and technical skills to determine results. This limits the speed of COVID-19 test, track and trace systems, making it more difficult to slow the spread of the disease. Laboratories also have to genetically sequence samples to test for specific variants, which takes even more time and resources. While at-home tests exist, many require self-collection and mailing to a central laboratory. Others are similar to rapid antigen tests, which have a high potential for false-negative and false-positive results. Moreover, these tests do not detect different variants of COVID-19.

Variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus may have different transmission rates, require different treatments, and respond differently to vaccines. Scientists from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), both in Cambridge, MA, and several Boston-area hospitals, recently created miSHERLOCK, an inexpensive, CRISPR-based diagnostic test that allows users to self-test for variants of SARS-CoV-2 at home, using their saliva.

Simple things that used to be ubiquitous in the hospital, like nasopharyngeal swabs, were suddenly hard to get, so routine sample processing procedures were disrupted, which is a big problem in a pandemic setting,” said co-first author of the study, Dr. Rose Lee, who is a visiting fellow at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at MIT.

Our team’s motivation for this project was to eliminate these bottlenecks and provide accurate diagnostics for COVID-19 with less reliance on global supply chains, and could also accurately detect the variants that were starting to emerge,” she notes.

miSHERLOCK is a low-cost point-of-care [COVID-19] test that is capable of detecting and differentiating specific SARS-CoV-2 variants, which could be used to guide patient care as well as for infection control or epidemiological purposes,” lead author Helena de Puig Guixe, a postdoctoral researcher at the Collins lab at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, told Medical News Today.

Our device is low-cost, provides a simple visual answer in 1 hour, and only requires saliva from a patient with no additional equipment separate from the device itself (including its standard battery). […] Our full device, including all testing components, costs $15, down to $6 with reuse of the housing and electronics, but could be as low as $2–3 per test if produced at scale,” she added.

Source: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/

Gene Therapy Combats Efficiently Age-related Diseases

As we age, our bodies tend to develop diseases like heart failure, kidney failure, diabetes, and obesity, and the presence of any one disease increases the risk of developing others. In traditional drug development, a drug usually only targets one condition, largely ignoring the interconnectedness of age-related diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, and heart failure, and requiring patients to take multiple drugs, which increases the risk of negative side effects.

A new study from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and Harvard Medical School (HMS) reports that a single administration of an adeno-associated virus (AAV)-based gene therapy delivering combinations of three longevity-associated genes to mice dramatically improved or completely reversed multiple age-related diseases, suggesting that a systems-level approach to treating such diseases could improve overall health and lifespan. The research is reported in PNAS.

The AAV-based gene therapy improved the function of the heart and other organs in mice with various age-related diseases, suggesting that such an approach could help maintain health during aging.

The results we saw were stunning, and suggest that holistically addressing aging via gene therapy could be more effective than the piecemeal approach that currently exists,” said first author Noah Davidsohn, Ph.D., a former Research Scientist at the Wyss Institute and HMS who is now the Chief Technology Officer of Rejuvenate Bio. “Everyone wants to stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible, and this study is a first step toward reducing the suffering caused by debilitating diseases.

The study was conducted in the lab of Wyss Core Faculty member George Church, Ph.D. as part of Davidsohn’s postdoctoral research into the genetics of aging. Davidsohn, Church, and their co-authors honed in on three genes that had previously been shown to confer increased health and lifespan benefits when their expression was modified in genetically engineered mice: FGF21, sTGFβR2, and αKlotho. They hypothesized that providing extra copies of those genes to non-engineered mice via gene therapy would similarly combat age-related diseases and confer health benefits.

The team created separate gene therapy constructs for each gene using the AAV8 serotype as a delivery vehicle, and injected them into mouse models of obesity, type II diabetes, heart failure, and renal failure both individually and in combination with the other genes to see if there was a synergistic beneficial effect.

Source; https://wyss.harvard.edu/