TGAC Reports on Preliminary Work to Evaluate MinION Portable Sequencing Device for In-Field Use

As one of the first research Institutes to take part in the MinION Access Programme (MAP) for portable DNA sequencing, introduced by Oxford Nanopore Technologies, The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC)'s task force in the UK has shared its experience of the ground-breaking trial so far. One of the first research Institutes to be part of MAP, TGAC plans to use the miniaturized sequencing device to conduct live environmental surveillance; rather than gathering samples to take back to the laboratory, enabling the researchers to deliver real-time experimental genetic data for immediate analysis. The team of scientists from TGAC's Data Infrastructure and Algorithms and Plant and Microbial Genomics groups trialed the miniaturized sensing system by sequencing environmental samples, containing DNA from hundreds or thousands of different organisms. The team experimented first with a mock community, where they used a simple set of DNA samples from twenty bacteria, created for the Human Microbiome Project. Having developed their experimental and data methods, they then tested real environmental samples sequencing them on the MinION and Illumina platforms for comparison. Their aim was to sequence the microscopic biological molecules in the air around us - bacteria, spores, and viruses. Many key crop diseases spread via the air as spores, as well as some animal and human diseases. Analyzing such samples triggers technical issues, where there are very low levels of biological material present when sequencing DNA from air. Although the scientists faced challenges working with complex metagenomic material (DNA from multiple sources) recovered directly from environment samples in live-time, the introduction of the MinION as a potential portable laboratory made a major impact to the research's goal.
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