Forget ‘Bigger = Better’

I was forwarded a news article today (Science 4 May 2012: vol. 336 no. 6081 pp. 534-537 DOI: 10.1126/science.336.6081.534) that looks at the promise of nanopore technology  in driving genome sequencing.

For someone who spent a great deal of time sequencing DNA in their previous life, the concept of  reading almost a billion bases in 6 hours on a machine that can plug into and download data onto you laptop is mind blowing! “The technology is based on protein pores so tiny that 25,000 of them can fit on the cross section of a human hair” (No I can’t imagine that either!!).  Each pore is used to read the code of a single molecule of DNA as it passes through, and the developers (Oxford Nanopore Technology) have apparently sequenced the “genome of a virus in a single pass of a complete strand of its DNA”. Image from Oxford Nanopore Technology

There are still lots of ‘ifs’ and promises in the article but the future potential for health and other areas is undeniable. Possibly a much bigger hurdle to overcome in the  field of health is what will we do with personal genome information once it is so readily available?  Will we change our lifestyle and environmental exposures if we know that it may help mitigate the effects of a genome profile that indicates an increased predisposition to a disease? Is the NHS going to be in a position to offer alternative drugs if you have a profile that shows you will not respond as well to the one recommended by NICE?….

A podcast is available for the article.

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