DNA Strangs in Nanopore Sensor  (Source: Nature Nanotechnology )
New method is cheaper, more accurate and needs a much smaller sample.

The study of the human genome is believed to be the key to learning more about the myriad of diseases that plague humans. The genes hold the keys to everything that makes people who they are from eye color to hair color.

DNA also holds the key to genetic diseases, and learning more about the genes that contribute to disease is part of what researchers need to unlock to be able to find cures for disease. DNA sequencing today is a time consuming and expensive process. Much of the time and expense in sequencing DNA comes from the DNA amplification process.

DNA samples have to be amplified, a process that essentially makes a copy of DNA to produce a larger sample that the sequencing methods of today can work with. Researchers at Boston University have discovered a new method that makes DNA sequencing faster and cheaper than methods used today.

The new method eliminates the need to amplify DNA, which cuts much of the cost associated with sequencing of DNA today. The new method developed by the researchers detects DNA molecules as they pass through pores 4nm wide. An electrical current at the opening of the pore is used to detect when the DNA strand is passing though.

Professor Amit Meller said, "The current study shows that we can detect a much smaller amount of DNA sample than previously reported. When people start to implement genome sequencing or genome profiling using nanopores, they could use our nanopore capture approach to greatly reduce the number of copies used in those measurements."

The team found that the longer the string of DNA, the more quickly it was able to fine the pore opening and be read. This is not what the researchers expected; a shorter strand would seemingly be easier to pass though the opening.

Meller said, "That's really surprising. You'd expect that if you have a longer 'spaghetti,' then finding the end would be much harder. At the same time this discovery means that the nanopore system is optimized for the detection of long DNA strands -- tens of thousands basepairs, or even more. This could dramatically speed future genomic sequencing by allowing analysis of a long DNA strand in one swipe, rather than having to assemble results from many short snippets."

The discovery allows researchers to boost the capture rate by orders of magnitude and reduce the size of the sample needed from about 1 billion molecules to only 100,000. A Stanford University professor who mapped his own genome in a week believes that sequencing tests need to get to the $1,500 range per test to be useful in medicine today.

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