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Cheaper DNA Sequencing Coming Closer
Date:7/20/2011

By Denise Mann
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, July 20 (HealthDay News) -- The race to develop the $1,000 genome test may be heating up. New technology promises to cut costs while speeding the amount of time it takes to decipher all of your genes and potentially provide a personalized report of health risks and possible therapies, a new report says.

The human genome was first mapped in 2001 and cost roughly $1 billion to do. Since then, researchers have been striving to develop less expensive DNA sequencing technologies.

One of those less expensive technologies, developed by Ion Torrent Systems Inc. in San Francisco, uses a semiconductor chip to sense DNA or genetic material instead of light. This eliminates the need for some of the more expensive equipment typically required for such sequencing, and it also works faster, said Dr. Maneesh Jain, vice president of marketing and business development at Ion Torrent.

Researchers were able to scan three bacterial strains and one human genome using the new technology, Jain said.

The new DNA scan uses the same semi-conductor chip technology as digital cameras, and in a way, the evolution of this DNA scanning technology is similar to that of the digital camera, he said.

"When it [digital photography] first started out, the resolution was not good and the pictures were not as good as on film. But the technology improved, which made it more accessible and now more people can enjoy photography and become better photographers," he said.

A report on the new technology is published July 21 in the journal Nature.

As to when the coveted $1,000 gene scan will be available, Jain said that "we are approaching that goal very closely."

Less expensive DNA scanning technology holds significant potential, Jain said. For example, rapidly decoding a bacterial strain could help put the brakes on an outbreak, he said, adding, "We could identify the stra
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