NASA Presently Sequenced DNA in Space for the 1st Time Ever -

NASA Presently Sequenced DNA in Space for the 1st Time Ever

Scientists have sequenced DNA in space for the 1st  time ever, with NASA astronaut Kate Rubins taking part in a pioneering test on board the International Space Station (ISS) over the weekend.
Rubins, who's also a molecular biologist, ran the 1st  successful test of a mobile DNA sequencer in a microgravity environment – using a device that could be vital in protecting the health of astronauts on future mission in space, or even to recognize alien life forms.
The moveable sequencer – called MinION – was developed by UK-based Oxford Nanopore Technologies, and allow researchers to identify an organism's DNA sequence using a method called nanopore sequencing.
In nanopore sequencing, an electric present is sent through tiny pores in cell membranes to pick up change in ion flow as DNA molecules pass through the nanopores. These change can then be used to decode the sample's DNA sequence.
In adding to being small and readily portable – the whole MinION is only about the size of a chocolate bar – the device is also fast, and can run sequencing in as little as 10 minutes.
But while scientists use moveable DNA sequencers in the field to track the outbreak of viruses like Ebola and Zika, nobody knew until now if the same skill would work in space.
One potential hurdle was the possibility that the way bubbles behave in a microgravity environment could have interfere with the liquid samples used in the checking.
"In space, if an air bubble is introduce, we don't know how it will behave," said NASA planetary scientist Aaron Burton. "Our biggest concern is that it could block the nanopores."
Another challenge was actually getting DNA sequencers into space, and ensuring that delicate components in the equipment survive the tour undamaged.
Fortunately, Rubin's successful test on the weekend showed that the scientists needn't have concerned. The astronaut used the MinION to sequence trial of mouse, bacteria, and virus DNA on board the ISS, then transmit the analysis to Earth.
A group of scientists led by the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) analysed the data sent from the ISS, and difference it to equal samples sequenced in the lab on Earth. The results matched up, showing that microgravity isn't a barrier to recognize the unique building blocks that make up organic lifeforms.
"It didn't turn out to be a huge problem," said microbiologist Charles Chiu from UCSF. "We basically got equivalent data, and it's of very high quality, probably within the top 20 percent of nanopore runs that we do regularly here on Earth.""We can resupply the station with disinfectant and antibiotics now," she added, "but once crews move beyond the station low Earth orbit, we need to know when to save those precious resources & when to use them."
Looking a little more down the line, the same technology is what would also allow astronauts to identify any potential alien life forms or organic material we stumble across while explore space.
"For all the reasons the sequencer is superior for microbiology applications –it's small, it's lightweight, pretty robust – it's a superior piece of equipment to send to other location in the Solar System," Burton told Ria Misra at Gizmodo back in July.
"So if you required to go to Mars and see if there was life, if you had a small sequencer device, you could get it with you, and you could actually start look for life."
Because, after all, if there's everything that science-fiction movies have taught us, it's that you don't want to send unidentified alien sample back to the home

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