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Virus Testing Kits to Be Developed Using RNA Imaging Technology

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A Simon Fraser University (SFU) research team will be using RNA imaging technology it has created to develop coronavirus testing kits. The decision to apply the technology, called Mango, to COVID-19 testing is in response to a funding opportunity recently announced by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to help address COVID-19.

The coronavirus research made possible by CIHR funding will allow the SFU team to develop an isothermal testing methodology, known as Mango NABSA (nucleic acid sequence-based amplification). The Mango NABSA kits can be used to test for the coronavirus, which is a positive strand RNA virus.

SFU researcher Lena Dolgosheina holds up tubes to demonstrate the Mango imaging technology. Courtesy of Simon Fraser University.
SFU researcher Lena Dolgosheina holds up tubes to demonstrate the Mango imaging technology. Courtesy of Simon Fraser University.

Mango was developed to sensitively detect RNA molecules to help improve screening for viruses such as the coronavirus while enabling exploration into how cells function. The system consists of an RNA Mango aptamer that binds tightly and specifically to a fluorescent dye. The aptamer acts like a magnet, targeting and binding the dye molecules. The dye becomes excitable when bound and glows brightly. RNA molecules modified to contain the aptamer “magnet” stand out from the other parts of the cell, making it easier for researchers to see and study RNA molecules under a microscope.

“We are made of molecules so when something goes wrong within a cell it happens at the molecular level,” professor Peter Unrau said. “We are using the Mango system as a catalyst, to allow us to not only extend fundamental research questions but also to detect pathogens like the coronavirus faster and more efficiently.”

RNA Mango dyes are currently available from Applied Biological Materials (ABM) in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada. ABM is actively involved with this project as a partner and will supply the enzymes and buffers needed, which the SFU team originally developed.

The research was published in Nature Communications (

A team of researchers at SFU has received funding from CIHR to develop coronavirus testing kits using their pioneering imaging technology called Mango. Courtesy of Simon Fraser University.


May/Jun 2020
The emission of light or other electromagnetic radiation of longer wavelengths by a substance as a result of the absorption of some other radiation of shorter wavelengths, provided the emission continues only as long as the stimulus producing it is maintained. In other words, fluorescence is the luminescence that persists for less than about 10-8 s after excitation.
Research & TechnologyeducationAmericasSimon Fraser UniversitycoronavirusCOVID-19 testingfluorescenceopticslight sourcesimagingMicroscopyRNA imagingvirus detection and testingBiophotonicsmedicalmedicinesuperresolutionCOVID-19 News

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