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Pocket-Sized Device Could Make Genome Sequencing Cheaper And Faster

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Scientists used a pocket-sized portable device to sequence a complete human genome ever mapped to date with a single technology.

They also said that they were able to sequence DNA strands much longer than before using the device called MinION. Researchers consider long strands of DNA with controlled sequences as valuable and information-rich molecules

Medical Applications Of Sequencing Human Genomes

Understanding and interpreting human genomes can offer information about a person's antibodies, inherited genetic risks, and how contracted diseases have developed. The so-called nanopore technology can offer insights on poorly understood genome regions that regulate tumor growth and the body's immune responses.

Researchers also say that the technique may help detect cancer DNA in the blood and detect tumors even before symptoms emerge or they become visible through radiological techniques. For many diseases such as cancer, early detection is a crucial key that can make a significant difference in the patient's odds of survival. Some forms of cancer also have vague and often unrecognized symptoms.

"For personalised medicine, we will want to build up a picture of how individuals may respond to antibiotics and anti-cancer drugs," said Nick Loman from the University of Birmingham.

Cheaper And Faster Means Of Sequencing Genomes

Sequencing the genomes is currently laborious and needs to be done in high-tech laboratories but this could change soon. The breakthrough, which was reported in a study published in the journal Nature Biotechnology on Monday, may now make sequencing genomes cheaper and faster.

It also brings closer the idea of family doctors ordering up genome scans during a regular check-up. Genome sequencing could become a part of routine medical care just like blood tests.

"We hope that a pocket-size sequencer is going to give us the ability to bring sequencing much closer to the patient," said Loman. "The ability to sequence and assemble even very large complex genomes may have value one day in diagnostics and monitoring the evolution of diseases such as cancer and a wide range of infections."

How MinION Works

The researchers pieced together human genome by means of passing the DNA strands and electrically charged atoms to tube-like structures. MinION detects changes in the electrical current flow as individual molecules of DNA pass through the tiny hole in the membrane called nanopore. This makes it possible to identify and map DNA molecules.

Using the device, which is about the size of a mobile phone, mapping human DNA would cost about $1,000.

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