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Quick and Cheap DNA Sequencing on the Horizon?
When the human genome was first sequenced about a decade ago, the achievement took years and cost $1 billion. Now, scientists and entrepreneurs are predicting that the task will soon take just under 6 hours, with a price tag of just $900. A company called Oxford Nanopore Technologies claims it will accomplish this feat using a device that can plug into your computer's USB port.
The key to this remarkable rate of progress? A technology called nanopore sequencing, which allows researchers to determine the sequence of base pairs in an individual's DNA without taking it apart.
Traditional DNA sequencing techniques involves making many copies of an individual's genome, cutting it into millions of small fragments, and using radioactively-labelled bases to determine the exact sequence of the four bases that make up DNA--adenine, guanine, cytosine and thymine, often abbreviated A, G, C and T. Currently, sequencing using advanced versions of this technique takes about a week and costs roughly $18,000. The equipment takes up a lab bench and requires technicians to process the DNA sample before and after sequencing.