A pair of MIT researchers have invented a new coronavirus test that uses gene-hacking tech to determine whether someone has the disease — and the device costs a mere $6 to make, according to descriptions on a website dedicated to their project.
MIT researchers invent $6 coronavirus test that uses CRISPR
The MIT set out to design and build a coronavirus test that's as cheap and self-contained as possible, without sacrificing quality, reports The New York Times. They came up with a two-step test that makes use of CRISPR to scan the saliva of patients, or alternatively uses nasal swabs, to look for signs of the genetic code behind COVID-19.
"We're excited that this could be a solution that people won't have to rely on a sophisticated and expensive laboratory to run," said Feng Zhang, one of the researchers at the Broad Institute and MIT who developed the test, to The New York Times.
UPDATE May 5, 4:30 PM EDT: How the $6 COVID-19 test works
It's important to note this test is not yet approved for clinical use, according to the MIT team's website. The Times report explains how the test performed well in initial experiments, but the scope of their trial was limited — researchers only gave the test to 12 confirmed coronavirus patients, in addition to a control group of five healthy people.
The two-step process works like this: A patient's saliva or nasal swab is placed in a tube with chemicals that eviscerate the viruses. The chemical yield is then dropped into another tube filled with CRISPR molecules that hunt down the coronavirus. For full results, the second tube needs to remain at roughly 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit) for an entire hour, reports Futurism.
In many ways, the test is similar to those of an at-home pregnancy test, according to the Times. One strip of paper is dipped into the liquid, and if two lines develop, the test shows positive for the virus.
The researchers who developed the test told the Times that they're in talks with the manufacturers to mass-produce a one-vial version — which could if successful help curb the coronavirus testing crisis in the United States.
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