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Surprising Science

Gene Sequencing: The New Blood Test?

Technological advances on several fronts are quickly bringing down the cost of sequencing a person’s genes. One day, personal genome tests might become as essential as blood tests. 

What’s the Latest Development?

Sequencing a patient’s genes may soon become as common as a blood test, say computer engineers working in the genetics industry. They cite several advances in computing such as industrial digital cameras which can capture fluorescent molecules used to ‘read’ small sequences of DNA. The industry is progressing parallel to silicon computer chip makers by packing more sensors onto the surface of semiconductors, which are then used to read a the bases of a person’s genome. The company Complete Genomics currently sequences a genome for $5,000. 

What’s the Big Idea?

The industry’s immediate goal is to reduce the cost of sequencing an entire human genome to below $1,000, a price which would make the service feasible in clinical settings and could eventually make gene sequencing as common as a blood test. Though the first human genome was sequenced over a decade ago, doctors are still hopeful that further advances in data analysis will allow for a more complete understanding of how individual genes relate to the frequency of certain diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer, allowing treatments to be tailored to each individual. 

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