New, more accurate coronavirus test proposed by Technion

Lab researchers propose an alternative to the popular PCR testing method for coronavirus: instead of a larger sample size, a much smaller one can be used.

Illustration of DNA molecules passing through a nanopore. (photo credit: TECHNION SPOKESPERSON'S OFFICE)
Illustration of DNA molecules passing through a nanopore.
A new testing method for the coronavirus, proposed in a recent study published by the Technion's Faculty of Biomedical Engineering, headed by Prof. Amit Meller, could pave the way to more accurate testing. A commercialization process is currently in the works in the hopes of making it readily available to the general public as soon as possible.
In a regular PCR test a swab sample is taken from the patient, then RNA is extracted and sequenced into DNA form. That sequence is then amplified via a polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Once there are millions of copies, the presence of the virus can be detected.
But this method has drawbacks which the researchers hope to address. The challenge in requiring a large sample body to detect the virus is that the chance for error magnifies with the number of samples. Additionally, sometimes the viral RNA presence is quite low, which makes it harder to detect and easier to miss.
The proposed method overcomes these drawbacks. Instead of taking a massive sample size, it proposes to utilize original technology from Meller's lab group in the form of nanofabricated holes, or "nanopores," to analyze individual molecules. This will ensures a smaller sample size and greater accuracy. The molecules pass through an electric sensor, during which they give off a singular and unique electrical signature. It would also strip away the other molecules, leaving the target ones intact, contributing to the greater precision of the tests.
The proposition is to apply this technology to coronavirus tests, making the process quicker and more accurate.
The end goal is to make the test portable, lessening the work necessary in the lab.
"We have shown that our technology preserves the level of genetic expression of the original RNA molecules throughout the entire process," Meller said Professor. "In this way, we obtain a more precise analysis method, which is essential."

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