Tracking Virus Mutation

When the opportunity came to use new DNA sequencing technology, Thomas Sasani, a graduate student in the Department of Human Genetics, stepped up to the challenge.

The traditional approach to sequencing DNA can be a very laborious process. Researchers extract DNA, cut it into tiny fragments and read each tiny piece, slowly attempting to put together an inconceivable puzzle. The new device, developed by Oxford Nanopore Technologies, only has been adapted by a few institutions and allows researchers to read much longer strands of DNA and disentangle the more confusing sections of the genome.

“There are a number of devastating diseases and disorders that are caused by large, structural changes to the genome,” Sasani said. “There’s a significant chunk of the human genome that we don’t really understand yet, and using this system, we can try and put the pieces together and map these complex situations.”

So far, Sasani has successfully used the system to do trailblazing research tracking viruses to identify how and when they are able to duplicate or modify their genome to more effectively infect hosts. Clinicians may be able to use the nanopore platform to better understand disease and prescribe antibiotics, and researchers can develop a firmer grasp on DNA and RNA biology.

More articles like this in ‘Student Innovation @ the U!’

Find this article and a lot more in the 2018 “Student Innovation @ the U” report. The publication is presented by the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute to celebrate student innovators, change-makers and entrepreneurs.

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