NASA makes plans to start sequencing DNA in space

The National Aeronautics and Space Agency will send its next payload of supplies and technology to the International Space Station, including an Oxford Nanopore MinIon sequencer.

The astronauts on the ISS will test the device’s function in space by sequencing bacterial, viral, and mouse DNA, whose sequences have already been well documented, and then send the data back to Earth to be compared to sequences from MinIons on the ground.

As of now, the MinIon is the only sequencer that could conceivably be used in space, according to Johnson Space Center microbiologist Sarah Wallace. The instrument’s size makes it ideal for such a use, she said. And unlike Illumina and Sanger sequencing instruments, for example, the MinIon isn’t particularly sensitive to vibrations and doesn’t need large amounts of electricity to run, she added.

That said, and although the agency is eager to sequence more microorganisms, including those found in the ISS environment and on the astronauts themselves, the reliability of the MinIon in a microgravity environment has be ascertained, Wallace explained in a NASA conference call this afternoon. There’s a concern that bubbles could form when the samples are loaded into the device — something that’s not really a problem on Earth — so the first step is to learn about the MinIon’s fluid dynamics in space.

Read more:

Source: GenomeWeb