Current DNA sequencing techniques involve taking the DNA from a person or other organism and then making billions of copies of it to run thru sequencing machines. This is slow, expensive, and error prone. Back in 1989 UCSC professor David Deamer first conceived of the idea of making nanopores thru which a single strand of DNA would pass at a time and as the strand passed thru the nanopore its changing electrical pattern would be used to read each successive DNA base (each letter location in the genetic code) via sensors built into the nanopore structure. This approach holds the potential of allowing for miniaturization, elimination of lots of expensive reagents, and to speed sequencing by many orders of magnitude.
One of the teams attempting to develop nanopore DNA sequencing technology is at Harvard. From Harvard Biology Professor Daniel Branton's home page:
A novel technology for probing, and eventually sequencing, individual DNA molecules using single-channel recording techniques has been conceived. Single molecules of DNA are drawn through a small channel or nanopore that functions as a sensitive detector. The detection schemes being developed will transduce the different chemical and physical properties of each base into a characteristic electronic signal. Nanopore sequencing has the potential of reading very long stretches of DNA at rates exceeding 1 base per millisecond.
Biophysics Ph.D. candidate Lucas Nivon, who works in the lab of Professor Dan Branton has this to say about the potential for nanopore technology:
Professors Dan Branton and David Deamer developed a new way to sequence single-stranded DNA by running it through a protein nanopore. Using this method, we could potentially sequence a human genome in 2 hours.
Well, 1 base per millisecond translates into 86 million bases per day. With a 2.9 billion size human genome it would take slightly over a month to sequence an entire genome. But Nivon's 2 hour estimate is plausible because many nanopores could be placed into a single device. With 500 nanopores in a single device the human genome could be decoded in less than 2 hours. The first article in the list below uses the 500 nanopore example though they quote a 24 to 48 hour sequencing time. Possibly different generations of this technology are being referenced to come out with different predicted sequencing times.
For a more detailed discussion of this topic see these articles:
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2002 September 04 12:16 PM Biotech Advance Rates|