New soft­ware can ver­ify some­one’s iden­tity by their DNA in min­utes

Tehran Times - - SCI / MED - (Source: eu­rekalert.org)

In the science-fic­tion movie Gat­taca, vis­i­tors only clear se­cu­rity if a blood test and read­out of their ge­netic pro­file matches the sam­ple on file. Now, cheap DNA se­quencers and cus­tom soft­ware could make real-time DNA-au­then­ti­ca­tion a re­al­ity.

Re­searchers at Columbia Uni­ver­sity and the New York Genome Cen­ter have de­vel­oped a method to quickly and ac­cu­rately iden­tify peo­ple and cell lines from their DNA. The tech­nol­ogy could have mul­ti­ple ap­pli­ca­tions, from iden­ti­fy­ing vic­tims in a mass dis­as­ter to an­a­lyz­ing crime scenes. But its most im­me­di­ate use could be to flag mis­la­beled or con­tam­i­nated cell lines in cancer ex­per­i­ments, a ma­jor rea­son that stud­ies are later in­val­i­dated.

“Our method opens up new ways to use off-the-shelf tech­nol­ogy to ben­e­fit so­ci­ety,” said the study’s se­nior au­thor Yaniv Er­lich, a com­puter science pro­fes­sor at Columbia Engi­neer­ing, an ad­junct core mem­ber at NYGC, and a mem­ber of Columbia’s Data Science In­sti­tute. “We’re es­pe­cially ex­cited about the po­ten­tial to im­prove cell-au­then­ti­ca­tion in cancer re­search and po­ten­tially speed up the dis­cov­ery of new treat­ments.”

The soft­ware is de­signed to run on the Min­ION, an in­stru­ment the size of a credit card that pulls in strands of DNA through its mi­cro­scopic pores and reads out se­quences of nu­cleo­tides, or the DNA let­ters A, T, C, G. The de­vice has made it pos­si­ble for re­searchers to study bac­te­ria and viruses in the field, but its high er­ror-rate and large se­quenc­ing gaps have, un­til now, lim­ited its use on hu­man cells with their bil­lions of nu­cleo­tides.

In an in­no­va­tive two-step process, the re­searchers out­line a new way to use the $1,000 Min­ION and the abun­dance of hu­man ge­netic data now on­line to val­i­date the iden­tity of peo­ple and cells by their DNA with near-per­fect ac­cu­racy.

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