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Pocket-sized scanner helps fill gaps in the human genome

Technician injects fluid into MinION DNA sequencer

Portable and getting better fast

Patrice Latron/EURELIOS/Look At Sciences/SPL

We’ve yet to finish sequencing the entire human genome – but we have just filled in a few of the remaining gaps thanks to a tiny, cheap DNA sequencer.

Some parts of the human genome consist of short sequences repeated over and over again. Conventional DNA sequencing methods can only read a few hundred DNA letters at a time, so it has not been possible to fully sequence the most repetitive stretches of DNA – little pieces can be sequenced but there is no way to join these pieces up in the right order.

But the MinION sequencer made by Oxford Nanopore can now read well over a million DNA letters at a time, says Matt Loose of the University of Nottingham in the UK, whose team is the first to use it to sequence the entire genome of one individual.

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