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Feature Story

Paperback diagnostics

By Lauren Martz, Staff Writer

A paper-based diagnostic platform invented by Harvard University bioengineers could provide a cheap, portable and easy-to-use system for detecting pathogens in hospitals or developing-world settings.1 The technology uses embedded gene expression systems and can detect isolated mRNA biomarkers, but it will need to detect sequences in complex biological samples before it can be put into practice beyond the lab.

The diagnostic was created by a team led by James Collins at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University who wanted to find real-world applications for synthetic gene networks. According to Collins, those systems have not gained traction yet in treatment settings because of concerns over safety and the complex apparatus involved.

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