DNA Sequencing Goes Mobile

Nature Methods features MinION, a palm-sized open-source nanopore platform that has been developed into a portable DNA sequencing machine that fits into the palms of your hand. The newest faculty in the USTAR Center For Genetic Discovery, Aaron Quinlan, Ph.D. (who is relocating from the University of Virginia), has designed a software tool, poretools, that assesses the quality of the data obtained through MinION, and performs downstream data analysis. While the hardware saves time and expense by enabling detection of single DNA molecules without amplification, pooretools analyzes data as it streams in real-time. 

"We develop algorithms and effective, easy to use genomics tools," says Quinlan. "We want to make genome research easier." He collaborated with Nicholas Loman, Ph.D., from the University of Birmingham on the project.

One day, MinION could be toted to remote areas and used to assess patients, or to monitor infectious agents. At this stage, hardware and protocols remain to be optimized for the high-accuracy readout required for clinical diagnostics, but performs at a level suitable for environmental monitoring and similar applications.

Out of the Lab, Into the Field