April 01, 2012
Nanopore DNA Sequencer

While DNA sequencing costs have already plummeted by 6 orders of magnitude in about the last 10-12 years the use of nanopores (where a single small DNA strand will get pulled thru a carefully crafted sensor to have its DNA sequence read) hasn't reached the commercial stage. But nanopores seem like a logical next step in size and cost. Now some U Wash researchers believe they've found a way to make a big stride toward workable cheap nanopore DNA sequencers.

Researchers have devised a nanoscale sensor to electronically read the sequence of a single DNA molecule, a technique that is fast and inexpensive and could make DNA sequencing widely available.

The technique could lead to affordable personalized medicine, potentially revealing predispositions for afflictions such as cancer, diabetes or addiction.

"There is a clear path to a workable, easily produced sequencing platform," said Jens Gundlach, a University of Washington physics professor who leads the research team. "We augmented a protein nanopore we developed for this purpose with a molecular motor that moves a DNA strand through the pore a nucleotide at a time."

The researchers previously reported creating the nanopore by genetically engineering a protein pore from a mycobacterium. The nanopore, from Mycobacterium smegmatis porin A, has an opening 1 billionth of a meter in size, just large enough for a single DNA strand to pass through.

DNA sequencers have something very important in common with computers: The smaller you can make them the more powerful and cheaper they become. Biotechnology has started following the same pattern that the computer industry has been going thru for decades: smaller is cheaper and smaller is more powerful. So, for example, microfluidic devices hold out the promise of cheap and highly automated lab-on-a-chip devices controlled by elaborate software. This makes me very optimistic that the rate of advance in biotechnology will accelerate and enable development of effective rejuvenation treatments.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2012 April 01 10:23 PM  Biotech Advance Rates

PacRim Jim said at April 1, 2012 10:54 PM:

Once humans take control of their DNA, they will control their evolution and lifespan.
We Homo sapiens will seem to have been piteously short-lived and vulnerable a maladapted and forgettable stage of human evolution.

Omespeak said at April 2, 2012 9:54 PM:

There is a UK company, Oxford Nanopore, who announced back in February that they are close to commercial release of DNA sequencers based on nanopores. In fact, they are devising USB-stick sized unit that can simply be plugged into a laptop for sequencing.

If interested, I covered some of the technological aspects of their device in my blog recently; otherwise you can look for a Wired article that came out recently and covers the more general aspects.

Desiree said at December 5, 2012 10:07 AM:

The idea of sequencing and otogenetics is soo interesting to me. It's pretty complex and confusing at times, but it keeps me interested! I've yet to learn about RNA sequencing though.

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