UK firm Oxford Nanopore Technologies Ltd. built a device, called MinION, which looks like an ordinary USB memory stick. However it is not just a USB memory stick but a little gadget that can sequence DNA while plugged into your laptop could have far-reaching effects on medicine and genetic research.

The device can sequence simple genomes – like those of some viruses and bacteria – in a matter of seconds. A single MinION is expected to retail at less than $900.

A novel method of DNA ‘strand sequencing’ that uses an array of proprietary protein nanopores embedded in a robust polymer membrane.  Each nanopore sequences multiple strands of DNA from solution in succession, as individual strands are passed through the nanopore by a proprietary processive enzyme.  Base calling is performed by identifying characteristic electronic signals (disruptions in current through the nanopore), created by unique combinations of DNA bases as they pass through a specially engineered region inside the nanopore.DNA and enzyme are mixed in solution, engage with the nanopore for sequencing and once the strand has been completed a new strand is loaded into the nanopore for sequencing.

A demo of MinION was shown at the Advances in Genome Biology and Technology (AGBT) conference in Marco Island, Florida, where MinION has sequenced a simple virus called Phi X, which contains 5000 genetic base pairs.

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Source: nanoporetech via newscientist