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Longer, Better, Faster… Smaller? New Genome Sequencing Tool Promises Richer Biological Insight

By February 8, 2018No Comments

For the past three years, Dr. Terrance Snutch and research associate Dr. John Tyson have been working with Oxford Nanopore Technologies (ONT) to develop a novel deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) sequencing tool with promising implications for personalized medicine. About the size of a mobile phone, the MinION device is a USB-powered DNA sequencer capable of mapping complex genomic structures; with it, researchers were recently able to assemble a complete human genome using reads hundreds of times larger than has previously been possible with conventional methods.

“This technology enables us to look at longer strands of DNA, reducing some of the complexity of ‘piecing together’ a person’s genetic information,” explains Dr. Snutch, Director of Translational Neuroscience at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health. “Longer, more detailed reads of human DNA offers researchers exciting potential for new biological insights.”

Drs. Snutch and Tyson collaborated with scientists at the University of Toronto, and research labs in the United Kingdom and United States to generate and piece together the data produced using the ONT MinION sequencer. The pocket-sized tool (pictured below) sequences the DNA by detecting the change in current flow as single molecules of DNA pass through a nanopore – or tiny hole – in a membrane.