Could CRISPR Democratise Diagnostics?
An early detection of diseases is often key to patients’ survival. And if this could be done in a fast, cheap and very accurate way, perhaps using our phone, then the future of medicine could be really revolutionised. In her young career, Janice Chen, a recent PhD graduate in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of California, Berkeley, has co-created DETECTR, a programmable DNA detection technology based on the CRISPR gene editing tool. The new diagnostic tools developed by Chen and her colleagues could help us identify bacterial and viral infections, detect cancerous mutations as they happen, and recognise new outbreaks before they spread out. But they also trigger some ethical questions regarding data ownership and diagnostic counseling. Should we be able to diagnose diseases without physician oversight? We need to make decisions now as the technology is already available.