Fri, Jul 19, 2019 - Page 2 News List

Researchers tout potential of DNA sequencing method

By Wu Liang-yi and Sherry Hsiao  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Tsai Ming-da, director of Academia Sinica’s Institute of Biological Chemistry, points at a slide at a news conference in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Wu Liang-yi, Taipei Times

Academia Sinica’s Institute of Biological Chemistry yesterday released a new DNA sequencing method that uses enzymes from thermophiles found in a hydrothermal vent near Acapulco, Mexico.

DNA polymerases — enzymes that synthesize DNA molecules — were used to catalyze sequencing reactions and mass spectrometry verified that the reactions were continuous, the researchers said.

“Despite the development of many highly efficient sequencing methods over the past four decades, there is room and need for further development and improvement” in DNA sequencing, the researchers wrote in the paper “Thermococcus sp. 9°N DNA polymerase exhibits 3’-esterase activity that can be harnessed for DNA sequencing,” which was published in the June 20 edition of Communications Biology.

“This new method can speed up DNA sequencing,” said institute director Tsai Ming-daw (蔡明道), one of the paper’s authors.

A base that takes about five minutes to sequence would take less than five seconds using the new approach, speeding up the process by 60 to 100 times, he said.

There are two main limitations to the approaches that are most commonly used right now, the researchers said.

The first is that they must be done in two stages and the second is that they require chemical agents, which increases costs and slows the process, while fewer DNA base pairs are read, they said.

Using the enzymes produced by thermophiles improves speed and accuracy, Tsai said.

The key to this technology is that the intermediate products in the reaction process can be detected directly, thereby reducing the need for a second step, the researchers said.

Academia Sinica is working with Personal Genomics, a biotech company, to apply for a patent for the technology.

While the technology has been successful in the lab, it will take a few years to commercialize it, Personal Genomics chairman Johnsee Lee (李鍾熙) said.

If it is commercialized, it could become a player in a multibillion-dollar market, Lee said.

DNA sequencing has applications in fields such as health management, targeted therapy — a style of treatment for cancer — and personalized medicine, where treatments are tailored to a patient’s predicted response or risk of disease.

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