Scientists assemble genome from DNA of single bug

September 19th, 2011 - 5:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Sep 19 (IANS) Now researchers can assemble all of an organism’s hereditary information from the DNA of a single bacterial cell, thanks to a significant breakthrough.

The genome is encoded in the DNA or deoxyribonucleic acid, the fundamental building block for an individual’s entire genetic makeup.

Existing sequencing methods require at least a billion identical cells, grown in lab cultures for the same purpose.

The study paves the way to the sequencing of what makes up the lion’s share of bacterial species on our planet — that lay beyond the scientists’ reach until now and could not be cultured, the journal Nature Biotechnology reports.

Bacteria play a vital role in human health. They make up about 10 percent of the weight of the human body, according to a California statement.

Some, like E. coli, can wreak havoc. Others help us digest. Yet others, recent studies have found, can change the way we behave by, for example, tricking us into eating more than we need.

That’s why it is crucial to analyse bacteria’s genomes, which in turn help scientists understand bacteria’s behaviour.

Scientists from University of California San Diego (UCSD) and the J. Craig Venter Institute and Illumina Inc, achieved the breakthrough.

“This part of life was completely inaccessible at the genomic level,” said Pavel Pevzner, computer science professor at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UCSD and pioneer of algorithms for modern DNA sequencing technology.

Pevzner, with UCSD math professor Glenn Tesler and Hamidreza Chitsaz, developed an algorithm that radically boosts the performance of software used to sequence DNA produced from a single bacterial cell.

These programmes traditionally recover 70 percent of genes. But “the new assembly algorithm captures 90 percent of genes from a single cell. Admittedly, it is not 100 percent,” said Tesler.

“But it’s almost as good as it gets for modern sequencing technologies: today biologists typically capture 95 percent of genes but they need to grow a billion cells to accomplish it,” said Tesler.

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