A Northeastern research team has developed new technology that optimizes DNA sequencing using nanophysics and electric currents. In a paper published in Nature Nanotechnology, Northeastern Professor of Biological Physics Meni Wanunu, in partnership with Pacific Biosciences, a biotechnology company with a focus on DNA sequencing, developed a method for loading DNA into sequencing wells with orders of magnitude higher efficiencies.
“Apart from being a multi-billion dollar a year market, DNA sequencing is one avenue where incremental improvements in research, like discovery of a new gene, for example, can have immediate clinical consequences,” said Wanunu.
Our human DNA is a genome composed of 23 pairs of chromosomes, which breaks down into six billion pieces that all come together to give each person their unique characteristics and properties. While we have the ability to sequence important parts of the genome, the ability to know the entire sequence has the potential to make huge strides in the area of understanding and predicting disease, and more importantly, to personalize medicine.
“Right now, piecing together the entire sequence through traditional methods is like stitching together a giant puzzle, and the error rate can get so enormous that after the first few hundred bases, the sequence is gibberish,” said Wanunu. “That’s why there’s a fundamental limit for second-generation sequencing methods, which we want to move past.”
This is why technology has evolved to bring forward a new method for sequencing DNA – single-molecule sequencing.