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July 19, 2023

HPV DNA Testing

NSF-supported researchers at Rice University have developed a low-cost HPV DNA test that could be deployed as a point-of-care test for screening one of the highest risk cancers.

Credit: U.S. National Science Foundation

Cervical cancer is a major public health challenge around the globe and in lower-income countries, HPV vaccination and screening programs are not widely accessible. But what if there was a low-cost solution that could be implemented without extensive training? We’ll explore the future of cancer detection in the U.S. National Science Foundation's "Discovery Files."

HPV DNA testing is one of the best ways to screen for cervical cancer which claims the lives of 300,000 women each year. But in developing countries, materials, equipment costs and the technical staff required to carry out testing has made it difficult to standardize. Thanks to new developments that may soon change.

NSF-supported bioengineers at Rice University are addressing gaps in care by developing a testing platform for HPV16 and HPV18 DNA, which cause most cervical cancers worldwide. The tests combine two technologies, isothermal DNA amplification and lateral flow detection, greatly simplifying the equipment needs and procedures for screening.

The integrated test uses a disposable cartridge that contains all the ingredients needed to take a sample to results in 6 simple steps.

Co-author Kathryn Kundrod "reducing the number of people who face a cervical cancer diagnosis does really require thinking about vaccination, screening, and treatment."

This platform could revolutionize cervical cancer screening and if scaled into commercial production, each test would cost less than $5, opening screening accessibility to point-of-care testing around the world.

To hear more science and engineering news, including the researchers making it, subscribe to "NSF's Discovery Files" podcast.

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