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Boosting genetic horsepower

Boosting genetic horsepower

The ability to sequence genomes holds clues to improving human health. UT Arlington has a new tool—a state-of-the-art Roche GS FLX 454 sequencer—that research associate Raymond Jones says will significantly increase sequencing capacity.

Put the capabilities of the new sequencer in perspective.

The human genome took seven years to complete, thousands of hours, and was assembled using older technology that generated DNA read lengths of 800 to 1,000 bases. Using the 454, the human genome could be assembled in about five months.

What advantages does it have over what you've been using?

We were limited to two sequencing platforms. The addition of the 454 makes complete our capacity to examine DNA at the level of sequence. It might be said that while all three platforms are capable of sequencing, they are ideal for three different tasks.

What research projects will the sequencer aid?

Any projects requiring the assembly of complete or almost complete genomes. Any projects investigating global gene transcription in an organism. Any projects examining transposable or hopping gene elements that may have been incorporated into a genome. The identification of mixed cultures of micro-organisms within a sample, whether it be a soil sample, water sample, or gut sample.

How can it help fight disease?

454 sequencing is a tremendous tool for single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) discovery, a strong suit for the UT Arlington Biology Department. While SNPs make up a very small portion of the genome in humans and other organisms, they are large contributors to phenotypic diversity. The 454 could help determine how SNPs and their resulting transcripts and products are related to changes in the phenotype of an organism. These are the same types of genomic changes and interactions that contribute to disease susceptibility. In many instances multiple SNPs found within a genome have been linked to diseases ranging from diabetes to schizophrenia.

How prevalent is such a sequencer?

Currently we are the only facility in North Texas that has a Roche GS FLX 454. We hope to provide services for all of the institutions in the area.