Life Technologies introduced a single molecule sequencer, which it claims will pave the way for the routine use of sequencing in research laboratories and clinical settings. The SMS platform has been designed to allow the analysis of genomic information without cloning or amplification and to combine virtually unlimited continuous long read lengths with the generation of data in just a few hours. These are crucial attributes for the future use of sequencing as a clinical tool, the firm adds.
While next-generation sequencing systems will remain the technology of choice for whole genome sequencing and expression profiling, the SMS approach will excel in applications such as the analysis of clinically relevant genes in cancer and immunology and for deciphering RNA structures, viruses, and patterns of methylation, according to Life Technologies. The firm aims to start collaborative work on the SMS system with a number of partners during the latter half of this year and will also announce commercialization plans by year end.
The SMS technology exploits specially designed sequencing versions of Qdot® semiconductor nanocrystals attached to proprietary DNA polymerase molecules. The platform essentially works by monitoring the real-time incorporation of nucleotides into indivudal DNA strands. As the nucleotides are attached they are energized by photons transferred from the Qdot nanocrystal, generating a colored fluorescence flash. The prototype system records the time and color series of flashes to determine the DNA sequence of each individual strand.
Life Technologies claims that in comparison with conventional fluorescence detection using organic dyes, the Qdot approach generates 100 times greater signals. Importantly, the SMS approach also looks for correlated fluorescence flashes with Qdot signal decreases, which the firm suggests is a key feature anticipated to improve the error profile of noisy single molecule data.
The system also includes a reagent exchange capability, which means individual Qdot polymerases and synthesized templates can be removed and replaced, allowing individual immobilized DNA templates to be sequenced several times in a recursive manner to allow highly accurate reads with minimal sample preparation. The reagent exchange feature also enables multiple long reads to be linked together and generates virtually unlimited read lengths.
SMS has caught the eye of various organizations including the J. Craig Venter Institute. “The promising combination of long reads and inherent accuracy enabled by recursive sequencing have the potential to make Life Technologies’ single molecule sequencing platform an integral part of our diverse sequencing projects,” suggests Craig Venter, Ph.D., JCVI founder and president. “We are eager to apply the technology in a number of projects including haplotype phasing of the human genome, environmental sequencing, and rapid sequence identification in our infectious disease work.”