December 21, 2010

Personal Genome Sequencing in Five Minutes

Personal genome sequencing in five minutes, that is the goal being pursued by DNA technologists, with semiconductor technology being the tool of choice. Semiconductor technology is used to build nanopores, which will help make genome sequencing fast, high capacity, inexpensive and widely available. Indeed Personal Genome Sequencer Chips can turn out to be the ultimate ASIC’s.

Life Technologies Ion PGM Sequencer is one of the first to use semiconductor sequencing. Millions of wells on a chip provide the reactors for sequencing, while a large array of semiconductor sensors are used to detect hydrogen ions produced during DNA replication and microfluidics is used to allow the reagents to flow over the sensors. The PGM sequencer is available today.

Imperial College scientists are also working on semiconductor sequencing with a goal to sequence a persons complete DNA in five minutes. This is equivalent to a rate of 10 million base pairs per second versus 10 base pairs per second achieved from current single molecule techniques. DNA is propelled through a 50 nm nanopore (on a chip) using an electrical charge. A tunneling electrode junction reads the coding sequence. The work is still at an early stage; products using this technique could be 10 years away.

Exciting times ahead.