April 08, 2008
First Single Strand DNA Sequencing Demonstrated

Up until now DNA sequencing has been done using many copies of each section of DNA. The older style sequencing machines do not have the sensitivity needed to measure the results from reading a single DNA strand. So many strands are used to boost the signal that comes from reading DNA letters. This use of many strands requires bigger and more expensive instruments with more reagents. Now Helicos Biosciences has demonstrated the sequencing of a genome using single DNA strand sequencing.

The latest revolution in the rapidly moving field of genome sequencing is upon us--single-molecule sequencing. Last week, Helicos Biosciences, a genomics company based in Cambridge, MA, published the first scientific paper to describe the sequencing of a whole genome using this approach. Experts say single-molecule sequencing, which reads the sequence of a single fragment of DNA, will ultimately simplify and speed the sequencing process, which could in turn enable the advance of personalized medicine. "The bottom line is, if at the end of day if you can just put a single strand of DNA onto a platform and sequence it directly, it's a huge advantage," says Elaine R. Mardis, co-director of the genome center at Washington University in St. Louis.

This is another step on the road to $1000 genome sequencing. Their machine is too expensive and this is not yet a step forward in cost. But if they can find ways to cut big costs out of their design it might turn into a useful way to lower the cost of DNA sequencing. Lots of other companies are chasing this same goal and costs are already falling quite rapidly without using single strand reading. But the development of cheaper ways to build small scale sequencers seems inevitable.

Thanks for the heads up Brock who draws attention to the fact that Helicos already has an even cheaper design than what they used in this paper.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 April 08 11:21 PM  Biotech Assay Tools

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