Saturday, May 24, 2008

Gene Sequencing for the Masses

While the scientists don't yet have the final figures on the Polonator's accuracy and throughput, they expect that it will sequence 10 billion base pairs in a single 80-hour run, a capacity equal to or greater than that of currently available technologies. The Danaher device will cost roughly $150,000, a third to a tenth of the cost of systems currently on the market.

The device is a commercial version of the polony sequencing approach developed in Church's lab over the past 10 years. Millions of beads coated with small fragments of the DNA to be sequenced are spread on a glass slide. Next, a series of fluorescently labeled DNA bases bind to the fragments. Finally, a standard fluorescence microscope reveals which base is at each position on a fragment. (The commercial version of the technology can accommodate a billion beads and has a more sophisticated imaging instrument.)

The technology will become an integral part of Church's other brainchild, the Personal Genome Project, an effort to enable personalized medicine by providing a test bed for new genomics technologies and analytic tools. Church and his collaborators are using the new device to sequence the genomes of the project's first 10 volunteers, who will share their genome sequences, medical records, and other personal information with both scientists and the public. Church hopes that, ultimately, thousands of people or more will have their genomes sequenced as part of the project, and that the result will be a huge compendium of data that is useful to both the volunteers themselves and to the research community. "Part of the goal of this project is as a bridge between the research market, which is small, and the consumer market," says Church.
This brings the $1000 personal genome that much closer.

via Technology Review

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