Developing a COVID-19 testing kit using RNA detection

The developers of an RNA imaging technology are using it to create a COVID-19 coronavirus testing kit, able to recognise the viral genome.

blood vial with 'COVID-19 test' written on it

Researchers who pioneered an RNA detection imaging technology have revealed they will use their discovery to develop COVID-19 coronavirus testing kits.

Mango was developed by Lena Dolgosheina, a post-doctoral fellow and Peter Unrau, a professor of molecular biology and biochemistry at the Simon Fraser University, Canada. It detects RNA molecules with high sensitivity, intended for use both in screening for viruses like COVID-19 and enabling basic discoveries into the functioning of cells.

In their latest paper, published in Nature Communications, the team used their technique to detect RNA molecules within living cells.

The technology was named Mango after the brightly coloured fluorescent dyes which become excitable and glow when they bind tightly to specific RNA sequences, called aptamers. The technique allows the presence of RNA to be detected and enables them to be studied more easily under a microscope.

“Cell regulation takes place at the level of RNA,” explained Unrau. “For a long time, the focus has been on protein but it is RNA and not protein that regulates the vast majority of processes within a cell.”

RNA Mango dyes are currently available from Applied Biological Materials (ABM) who is co-supporting the development of the coronavirus isothermal testing methodology, known as Mango NABSA (nucleic acid sequence-based amplification). According to researchers, the Mango NABSA kits will detect the positive strand RNA of the COVID-19 coronavirus.