Field deployable DNA sequencers

Since its inception in the 1990s, multiple revolutions have occurred in the field of DNA sequencing, where successive iterations of the technology enabled more reliable and less error prone sequencing of increasingly larger segments of DNA from a variety of sources such as human, bacteria, fungi, viruses etc. Indeed, DNA sequencing technology has revolutionized biology research, by providing an enabling tool in the hands of researchers keen to understand the identity of the cells they are working with, as well as taking a glimpse at the genetic repertoire endowed within the cell.


Recent innovations in DNA sequencing technology has saw two trends: (i) enabling long single molecule reads of DNA, and (ii) miniaturization. Firstly, with the advent of single molecule real-time sequencing (SMRT) from Pacific Biosciences, the capability of sequencing long molecular reads of DNA has been realized. Single molecule DNA sequencing is also available, through the ion current detection technology, by Oxford Instruments, which has recently commercialized another game changer in the field of DNA sequencing.


Specifically, Oxford Instrument’s pocket sized DNA sequencer, MinION (Link), has been demonstrated to be useful in reading large segments of DNA such as 882000 bases of Escherichia coli genome; thus, putting into the hands of researchers a powerful tool useful for detecting different microbes in field experiments, where previously researchers would have to collect the samples for analysis in the lab. Such field deployable DNA sequencers opens up the possibility of understanding the dynamic changes in field microbial diversity and ecology without problems associated with sample contamination during retrieval of samples for analysis in a lab.


Hence, rapid advancement in DNA sequencing technology has ushered in the era of whole genome sequencing, which is followed by the need to understand the genetic compendium of a consortium of organisms at a locale (metagenomics). The need to profile for useful information from small amount of genetic material has motivated the development of technology for sequencing small DNA samples. For example, realization of single molecule real-time sequencing has open up a new paradigm in DNA sequencing: the ability to profile the genetic information encapsulated in small number of cells present in an environmental niche. Such capability, when miniaturized (e.g., MinION), help enable the understanding of microbial diversity of sites at the local level, without the need for collecting samples for DNA analysis at a lab. This helps to accelerate the pace of research, and afford the timely adjustment of research questions following readout of DNA information in the field through field deployable DNA sequencers such as MinION.


Category: biochemistry, molecular biology, biotechnology, genetics, bioengineering, cell biology, genomics,

Tags: MinION, single molecule real-time sequencing, DNA sequencing, long reads, field deployable, microbial diversity,


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