In 2020, more than 50,000 people died of colon cancer in the United States alone. According to a recent Interesting Engineering article, Australian and US researchers have collaborated to develop a method for early detection. The result was a study to develop a bacteria-based system that can detect tumor DNA in a live organism. The innovation has the potential to create biosensors capable of identifying infections, cancers, and various other diseases. The researchers engineered a bacteria named CATCH (Cellular Assay for Targeted CRISPR-discriminated Horizontal gene transfer) using CRISPR technology, which enables DNA editing.
They tested this bacteria in an animal model and successfully detected colon cancer in mice. The engineered bacteria can sense DNA released from colorectal tumors, potentially offering a non-invasive method for early cancer detection. The study's leader, Jeff Hasty, envisions clinical applications for detecting gastrointestinal cancers and precancerous lesions using this technology.