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Faster cancer diagnosis achieved by new DNA sequencing method

7 December 2020
Appeared in BioNews 1075

A new DNA sequencing technique allows researchers to sequence only the regions of interest, enabling faster results.

ReadFish is a novel DNA sequencing method developed by researchers at the University of Nottingham, which enables the DNA sequencer to ignore pieces of DNA that are not of interest to the researchers. Existing methods require the sequencing of much more DNA in the search for important mutations, costing time and resources.

The work was led by Professor Matt Loose of the DeepSeq sequencing facility in the School of Life Sciences. He explained: 'In simple terms, we can now sequence the bits of DNA that we want to and ignore bits we don't. The advances we present here mean we can search through and sequence regions from genomes even as large as the human genome.'

Sequencing an entire human genome of 3.1 million base pairs could require several days of analysis. The team demonstrated the power of their new method by locating the mutation which causes a certain type of cancer in under 15 hours.

Professor Loose concluded: 'This breakthrough will enable us to look at a range of applications, such as rapidly searching fragments of the human genome to find evidence of genetic conditions or changes which may lead to illness such as cancer – which would have major implications for diagnosis. We are already seeing people using the method to identify the underlying causes for diseases in a host of different individuals for the first time.'

The novel methodology will allow for much faster cancer diagnostics and open up the possibilities for fast and cost-effective personalised medicine. Being able to sequence an individual patient's cancer in a matter of hours provides the opportunity to tailor treatments to the specific genetic causes of their disease.

Alexander Payne, the lead author of the study published in Nature Biotechnology, said 'Having truly adaptive sequencing, that can respond as the experiment progresses, brings lots of exciting opportunities for customising and tuning your sequencing for the question at hand. I am really looking forward to seeing how ReadFish is used by the nanopore community.'

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Major breakthrough in genome sequencing can quicken cancer diagnosis
Health Europa |  3 December 2020
New DNA scanning method could lead to quicker diagnosis of cancer and rare disease
University of Nottingham |  30 November 2020
Readfish enables targeted nanopore sequencing of gigabase-sized genomes
Nature Biotechnology |  30 November 2020
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