Function of CRISPR-Cas12a visible biosensor in detection of SARS-CoV-2

The present coronavirus illness 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is brought on by the worldwide circulation of the extreme acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which is very transmissible and contagious. Immediate identification of the virus was required for epidemic prevention, in addition to controlling the unfold of the virus.

Research: A smartphone-based visible biosensor for CRISPR-Cas powered SARS-CoV-2 diagnostics. Picture Credit score: CI Images /


Quantitative real-time polymerase chain response (qPCR) has been the preferred technique for the detection of SARS-CoV-2. To this point, this technique has been standardized by the World Well being Group (WHO) for the prognosis of COVID-19.

Just lately, the clustered frequently interspaced quick palindromic repeats (CRISPR), along with CRISPR-associated genes (Cas), have demonstrated huge potential in biosensing. Sure CRISPR-Cas techniques resembling Cas13a and Cas12a had been discovered to hold out non-specific nucleic acid reducing actions upon recognition of a goal sequence. This exercise is also called the trans-cleavage exercise, which led to the detection of nucleic acid with excessive sensitivity and selectivity.

Latest advances have been made in SARS-CoV-2 detection utilizing CRISPR-Cas13a or CRISPR-Cas12a, coupled with both fluorescent sign readouts or colorimetric sign readouts in paper lateral movement assays.  Nonetheless, the sensitivity and selectivity of those strategies require additional enchancment for offering passable efficiency with medical samples.

Moreover, the functions of plasmonic gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) in biosensing have gained significance in recent times. A number of benefits of smartphones resembling their interactivity, portability, and cameras, have additionally been discovered to be vital in biosensing. The coupling of smartphones with biosensing offers a field-deployable and user-friendly analytical gadget.

A brand new examine revealed within the journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics aimed to develop a novel CRISPR-Cas12a powered visible biosensor for the detection of SARS-CoV-2.

Research findings

Viral ribonucleic acid (RNA) was extracted, reversely transcribed, and amplified with the assistance of SARS-CoV-2 N gene-specific primers to acquire double-stranded deoxyribonucleic acid (dsDNA) amplicons. The Cas12a-crRNA complicated acknowledged the dsDNA amplicons, following which the trans-cleavage of ssDNA was initiated.

If the ssDNA is labeled with a fluorophore (F) at 5′ and a quencher (Q) at 3’ ends, the cleavage led to an unquenched state. This resulted in enhanced fluorescent alerts that had been used for the quantitative evaluation of the goal dsDNA. Moreover, a linker ssDNA was used to hybridize with pre-made AuNPs-DNA probe pairs by way of complementary base pairing.

Within the absence of goal DNA, the linker ssDNA would stay uncut, resulting in hybridization-induced aggregation of the AuNPs probes that might bear “pulldown.” This resulted in a redshift of their absorbance, turning the options colorless after centrifugation.

Within the presence of goal DNA, cleavage happened and there was no aggregation of AuNPs probes. This resulted within the resolution being coloured after centrifugation.

These colour adjustments may very well be captured by a smartphone put in with Shade Picker App or the bare eye. Thus, the detection of SARS-CoV-2 happened based mostly on the colour adjustments.

Is CRISPR-Cas12a possible for the detection of SARS-CoV-2?

To find out the feasibility of CRISPR-Cas12a-based detection, cRNA was designed to correspond to a part of the nucleocapsid (N) gene. The designed cRNA and PCR primers had been extremely conserved and aligned to some of the associated coronaviruses together with the extreme acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoV), Center East respiratory syndrome (MERS-CoV), and human coronaviruses (HumanCoV) for analysis of their specificity.

Following this, some preliminary experiments had been carried out on the plasmid that contained the N gene fragment of SARS-CoV-2. The outcomes of the experiment indicated that trans-cleavage of Cas12a was triggered solely within the presence of the goal N gene dsDNA amplicons and crRNA.

Moreover, a selectivity assay was designed that confirmed that the fluorescence intensities of solely the SARS-CoV-2 samples had been elevated. This demonstrated that the selectivity was excessive with out cross-reaction of non-SARS-CoV-2 targets.

Furthermore, detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA happened with the assistance of the Cas12a-crRNA complicated. The outcomes indicated that there was a linear relationship between the RNA and fluorescence intensities.

Detection of SARS-CoV-2 was stimulated by the manufacturing of lentiviruses harboring genomic fragments (N gene) of SARS-CoV-2. The outcomes of the assay indicated that the trans-cleavage of CRISPR-Cas12a may very well be helpful for the detection of SARS-CoV-2. Moreover, it was additionally discovered that the efficiency of the CRISPR-Cas12a fluorescent assay was fairly comparable with that of the standard qRT-PCR evaluation.

To hold out speedy detection of SARS-CoV-2, a visible detection technique was developed that was impartial of the microplate reader and may very well be simply learn with the assistance of a smartphone. Due to this fact, the proposed biosensor was examined with pseudoviruses that contained the N fragment.

The outcomes indicated that the tube devoid of SARS-CoV-2 particular nucleic acids was colorless after centrifugation. Comparatively, the tube that contained SARS-CoV-2 particular nucleic acids displayed a grade of colour adjustments that had been depending on the focus of the SARS-CoV-2.

Amplification-free detection of SARS-CoV-2 pseudoviruses indicated the restrict of detection (LOD) to be 106 copy/microliter (μL), which was fairly increased than the amplification adopted detection. Moreover, a linear correlation existed between the focus of the pseudovirus. Lightness values had been obtained by the smartphone digital camera.

Furthermore, the CRISPRCas12a fluorescent and visible biosensors had been discovered to have 100% consistency with qPCR. The realm beneath curve worth (AUV) was higher for this technique as in comparison with qPCR.

Repeatability and reproducibility are thought of vital for biosensor growth. Investigation of the relative normal deviations (RSD) values was discovered to be lower than 6%, which corresponded with acceptable repeatability and reproducibility.

Two completely different smartphones with completely different cameras had been used to find out if the distinction in gentle and digital camera may produce discrepancies within the outcomes. Though the 2 cameras produced slight variation, they weren’t statistically vital. This recommended that the proposed biosensor may very well be used with completely different smartphones and ranging gentle situations.

The present examine concerned 50 medical respiratory samples, out of which 20 had been affected by COVID-19, and 30 had been obtained from wholesome topics. The RNA samples obtained from all the topics had been reversely transcribed and amplified by PCR.

The PCR merchandise had been then examined by CRISPR-Cas12a powered visible biosensor. The outcomes indicated that the CRISPR-Cas12a visible biosensor was in a position to appropriately determine and differentiate the 50 constructive and adverse samples, identical to the standard qPCR outcomes.


Though the present examine was fairly efficient in figuring out the potential of the CRISPR-Cas12a visible biosensor within the detection of SARS-CoV-2, it had sure limitations.

Firstly, PCR amplification requires thermal cycles that may very well be changed by some isothermal amplification know-how. Secondly, the biosensor comprised multistep liquid switch that may very well be built-in right into a single-pot response, which might assist decrease instrumentation and simplify the process.

Journal reference:

  • Ma, L., Yin, L., Li, X., et al. (2021). A smartphone-based visible biosensor for CRISPR-Cas powered SARS-CoV-2 diagnostics. Biosensors and Bioelectronics 195. doi:10.1016/j.bios.2021.113646.

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