DNA sequencing breakthrough facilitates complete scans on pocket-sized devices

Engineering

New technological advances have made it possible to carry out direct sequencing of long strands of DNA using pocket-sized devices.

Scientists from the Universities of Birmingham, Nottingham, East Anglia, California, Salt Lake City, British Columbia and Toronto have utilised innovative nanopore technology to sequence a complete human genome in fragments hundreds of times larger than usual.

β€œNew nanopore technology for sequencing long strands of DNA has made it possible for human genomes to be sequenced using a pocket-sized device.β€œ

The sequencer is approximately the size of a mobile phone and is able to sequence DNA by detecting changes in current flow as single molecules of DNA pass through tiny holes, or nanopores, in a membrane.

The team were able to use this tool to analyse a sequencing read that was 1,204,840 bases in length, around 8,000 times longer than a typical sequence. This makes it much easier to piece together a complete genome than was the case with previous techniques.

Dr Andrew Beggs, of the University of Birmingham's Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences, said: "Thanks to advances using the nanopore system, I think in five to ten years we'll be at the stage where genetic sequencing will be as ubiquitous as boiling a kettle or making a cup of tea."

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