In DepthGenomics

Pocket DNA sequencers make real-time diagnostics a reality

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Science  19 Feb 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6275, pp. 800-801
DOI: 10.1126/science.351.6275.800

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Not so long ago, DNA sequencing required massive equipment and lots of time and money. Now, relatively cheap, pocket-sized devices are on the verge of giving real-time sequencing abilities to the masses. These so-called nanopore sequencers, produced so far by a single company, have suffered from poor accuracy. But this month, researchers reported that the instruments passed an important field test, conducting on-the-spot sequencing of viruses isolated from patients during last year's Ebola epidemic in West Africa. In the lab, meanwhile, other researchers are tweaking sample preparation and data analysis to boost the devices' accuracy and speed. Real-time analyses of pathogens and the rest of life are within reach, they say. Ecologists, public health officials, epidemiologists, food safety officials, and many others may reap the benefits. Some researchers predict that one day these sequencers will be in every lab and even in everyone's pocket, like mobile phones.