USB DNA Analyzer Introduced by NanoPore Technologies
Traditionally you have to visit a doctor or order a DNA testing kit via the mail and send it off, and then wait for weeks for an answer. Now buyers who have the money might be able to run the same test from their laptop using a USB DNA analyzer. The device, which is being called the MinION by the researchers at Oxford Nanopore, has a 6 hour life and can in that time analyze more than 150 million gene sequences, all without using any sort of DNA amplification.
Oxford Nanopore Technologies
Oxford Nanopore Technologies are the makers of the MinION and the technology behind it, GridION. The company is one of the world’s leaders in technology for reading, analyzing, and sensing DNA, RNA, proteins and other single molecules using Nanopore Technology. The company currently owns more than 300 patents in 80 fields related to nano particles and DNA sensing, and some of those patents include standards in DNA analytics. The company was founded in 2005 with the intention of finding some way to analyze and scan nanopores for faster and better DNA analysis, and has come a long way towards that goal.
The MinION USB DNA Analyzer
A disposable DNA analyzing kit that plugs into your computer? The entire idea sounds like something out of a sci-fi novel, but like other a lot of other fantastical tech related ideas, it is now a reality. The device uses technology that is also patented by NanoPore Technologies and is known as GridION. MinION is a disposable DNA test kit designed to analyze blood, serum, and even environmental samples within its 6 hour lifespan. The kit uses a sensing chip that can effectively complete single molecule sensing experiments directly on any laptop. The device was invented more than 1 year ago and introduced on February 17th of 2012, now it looks like MinION could be being released to the market, for anyone who can afford it.
How Does it Work?
MinION uses nanopores to sequence DNA. The original version used 2,000 nanopores to sequence DNA, but according to the company, newer versions might be available that sequence with as many as 8,000 nanopores at one time. Nanopores are literally holes at a nano-level which can be used to for sequencing DNA by passing the pore through a proprietary processive enzyme. Identifying characteristics of the DNA are formed by creating unique combinations of DNA inside of the pore, and then the enzymes are mized in a solution for sequencing. New strands load automatically for sequencing. Initial tests showed that the MinIONS USB DNA Analyzer has similar accuracy levels to standard DNA testing, and that a 20 node device could sequence an entire human genome in just 15 minutes (which would require purchasing 20 MinION’s). According to GizMag, they will cost roughly $900 each, which isn’t bad considering the relatively new state of the technology. While still too expensive for home consumers, price rates can be compared to other costs of gene sequencing. For example, Steve Jobs paid $100,000 to have his full genome sequenced. With the MinION, it would only cost $20,000 plus a bit of tech know-how to create the nodes.
What it Means for the Market
NanoPore Technologies has announced that the MinION USB DNA analyzer will be available on the market within 6-9 month’s time. By that time, they expect the model shown to be smaller, faster, and better. But despite what most of us are expecting, it probably won’t be anything ground breaking, not for some time.
What MinION does do however is change the genetic analytics market towards a low cost, consumer based module. While MinION itself is still too expensive for consumers to purchase, it already offers more cost effective solutions. And when compared to the history of other technology, (the first laptop sold for what would be nearly $25,000 today to NASA) the price tag will soon take a dive. A portable, disposable, DNA gene sequencer that is fast, affordable, and easy to use could change the entire gene sequencing market. At $900 only those with a lot of extra money, or the need for a field tester, will use the tech, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.