Publication Type:Journal Article
Synthetic biomarkers, exogenous probes that generate molecular reporters, represent an emerging paradigm in precision diagnostics with applications across infectious and noncommunicable diseases. In order to achieve their promise, these methods reply on multiplexing strategies to provide tools that are both sensitive and specific. However, the field of synthetic biomarkers has not benefited from molecular strategies such as DNA-barcoding due to the susceptibility of nucleic acids in vivo. Herein, we exploit chemically-stabilized DNAs to tag synthetic biomarkers and produce diagnostic signals via CRISPR nucleases. Our strategy capitalizes on disease-associated, protease-activated release of nucleic acid barcodes and polymerase-amplification-free, CRISPR-Cas-mediated barcode detection in unprocessed biofluids. In murine cancer models, we show that the DNA-encoded urine biomarkers can noninvasively detect and monitor disease progression, and demonstrate that nuclease amplification can be harnessed to convert the readout to a point-of-care tool. This technique combines specificity with ease of use to offer a new platform to study human disease and guide therapeutic decisions.