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New genetic sequencing technology enables 'DNA tasting'

"The application of this approach to a wide number of problems from pathogen detection to sequencing targeted regions of the human genome," said researcher Matt Loose.

By Brooks Hays
New genetic sequencing technology enables 'DNA tasting'
New technology will allow scientists to selectively sequence DNA fragments in real time. Photo by Gio.tto/Shutterstock

NOTTINGHAM, England, July 25 (UPI) -- Researchers at the University of Nottingham announced they've found a way to selectively sequence DNA fragments in real time.

The method relies on a traditional technique called nanopore sequencing, but allows users to target and sequence fragments containing specific pre-selected coding.

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Researchers are working to fuse their method with a new portable DNA sequencing technology designed by biotech group Oxford Nanopore Technologies. NASA recently used the pocket-sized device, dubbed MinION, to try to sequence DNA in microgravity.

"This is the first time that direct selection of specific DNA molecules has been shown on any device," Nottingham researcher Matt Loose said in a news release. "We hope that it will enable many future novel applications, especially for portable sequencing."

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"This makes sequencing as efficient as possible and will provide a viable, informatics based alternative to traditional wet lab enrichment techniques," Loose added. "The application of this approach to a wide number of problems from pathogen detection to sequencing targeted regions of the human genome is now within reach."

The technology utilizes a series of nanopores in a membrane to selectively sequence fragments of DNA samples. A current running through the membrane's nanopores is augmented by the DNA fragments. Cloud computing allows the shifting current signatures to be translated into DNA code in real time. The processing happens fast enough that the nanopores can pick up a targeted code -- or a lack of one -- before the segment is finished being sequenced.

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If a targeted code is recognized, the fragment can be fully sequenced. Or the nanopore can be instructed to ignore a fragment and move on.

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Researchers say the new method can cut down on the time it takes to sequence DNA and could also help identify specific DNA in a biological sample potentially contaminated with other DNA.

Some researchers have dubbed the real-time selective sequencing method "DNA tasting."

The technology was detailed in a new paper, soon to be published in the journal Nature Methods.

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