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Research to explore revolutionary gene sequencing: Threading the molecular needle

The ability of molecular biologists to sequence the human genetic code promises to usher in a new era of genetic medicine, but that doesn't mean current science can accurately read your personal genetic code. The sequencing of the DNA comprising the code is still far too slow, costly and inaccurate to allow the kind of accurate sequencing of specific tissues that is necessary to understand many of particular genetic problems of individual patients.

A radical new method of DNA sequencing currently being explored by Stuart Lindsay, Director of the Center for Single Molecule Biophysics in the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University and Professor of Physics at ASU, could make the long-dreamt-of era of true genetic medicine possible with extremely rapid, accurate and low cost sequencing of single DNA molecules. However, a number of significant technical hurdles still need to be overcome before the idea can be considered a usable technology.

With the goal of overcoming these technical challenges, the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) of the National Institutes of Health has awarded a $550,000 three-year grant to Lindsay to further develop a nanotechnology project for rapid genetic profiling. The award is just one of seven given this year in NHGRI's "Revolutionary Genome Sequencing Technologies" grant program, which the Institute says is aimed at "the development of breakthrough technologies that will enable a human-sized genome to be sequenced for $1,000 or less."

As a scientist, however, Lindsay is careful in not claiming a breakthrough yet. "There is still a fair amount of harsh reality to deal with," he said. "As we work harder on the project, we haven't yet encountered any fundamental problems that say this is impossible but we have encountered lots of challenges that still need to be solved. But this is what scientific research is about. We are making solid progress and every time a new pro
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Contact: James Hathaway
hathaway@asu.edu
480-965-6375
Arizona State University
28-Oct-2004


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