UF researchers develop promising new tool for cancer detection

Researchers develop CRISPR-powered test to detect cancer early.


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In a groundbreaking development, a team of researchers at the University of Florida (UF) has created a cutting-edge tool using CRISPR technology to diagnose cancer. 

This innovative approach can potentially revolutionize cancer detection by providing more accurate and efficient results. By harnessing the power of CRISPR, scientists at UF have opened up new avenues for early detection and targeted treatment of various types of cancer. This breakthrough holds immense promise for improving patient outcomes and advancing the field of oncology.

University of Florida researchers have significantly advanced cancer diagnosis with a new CRISPR-based method. Their noninvasive blood tests can potentially detect cancer at earlier stages, comparable to the widely used RT-qPCR assays. This innovative approach can be combined with a portable device for convenient point-of-care testing, promising prospects for improved clinical diagnosis and treatment.

A team of University of Florida researchers, led by Yong Zeng, Ph.D., has published a study in Nature Biomedical Engineering, introducing an innovative cancer diagnostic method. With collaboration from the UF College of Medicine’s Department of Surgery and funding from the National Cancer Institute, the team focuses on detecting microRNAs, small RNA molecules that regulate gene expression, in extracellular vesicles in the bloodstream. 

These vesicles, released by cells, have essential functions in cell processes and diseases. The researchers believe that tumor cells’ elevated production of these vesicles and microRNAs holds potential as cancer markers. 

The team overcomes the challenges associated with microRNA-based diagnostics by harnessing CRISPR technology, a highly effective gene editing tool. 

The new method offers enhanced sensitivity and efficiency, surpassing traditional approaches like RT-qPCR and paving the way for improved cancer diagnosis.

The team led by Yong Zeng at the University of Florida has developed a simplified and efficient method called “EXTRA-CRISPR” for detecting microRNAs in cancer diagnosis. The method streamlines the workflow by combining all necessary reagents in a single test tube, eliminating the need for multiple steps and reducing the risk of cross-contamination. 

Surprisingly, the team found their method demonstrated comparable sensitivity to PCR tests, with excellent analytical and diagnostic performance. They also developed a portable smartphone-based point-of-care device that utilizes the EXTRA-CRISPR method, enabling simplified and reliable cancer detection. 

The team focused on pancreatic cancer, a disease with high mortality rates and limited early detection options. The research has shown promising results, and the group has filed a patent application to make this technology widely available for research and clinical applications.

This breakthrough holds immense promise for improving patient outcomes and advancing the field of cancer diagnosis.

Journal Reference:

  1. Yan, H., Wen, Y., Tian, Z.,et al. A one-pot isothermal Cas12-based assay for the sensitive detection of microRNAs. Nature Biomedical Engineering. DOI: 10.1038/s41551-023-01033-1


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