Device is the size of a cell phone – and in the future, you can use it to access your genetic code without leaving home
A team of scientists took 13 years and spent more than $ 3 billion to read the DNA of a human being for the first time in 2003. Since then, there have been several companies that offer DNA analysis to anyone, but this service is much more limited than it seems: it only sequences (reads) a small part of the genetic code.
But a new device, the size of a cell phone and was created by the English company Oxford Nanopore, can change that. “It gives us an incredible opportunity to start sequencing the genome as a routine thing, something people can do in their own homes,” said Nicholas Loman, a researcher at the University of Birmingham and one of the creators of the gadget, to the English network BBC.
The gadget is different because it can decode long stretches of DNA, something that the current methods do not. Today, in order to read the genetic code, you have to break it into small pieces, decode them and then rebuild everything, a difficult, slow and expensive process. According to the scientists, the new device has accuracy of 99.5%, and allows to observe stretches of human DNA that have been little studied until today.
This may lead to new treatments against various diseases such as cancer (as it will be easier to analyze patients’ DNA) and infections (bacterial genome analysis may help identify possible resistance to antibiotics). The device has already been used in Africa to study the DNA of the ebola virus, but is still a prototype, with no release date.