Unique technology that uses the enzymes of fireflies to read the genetic code of DNA has been installed at the University of Liverpool.
Liverpool is one of only two universities in the UK with the machine, which can read up to 100 million DNA letters in a few hours compared to technology currently in use that can only process 50,000.
The machine - called GS-Flex - is unique in that it uses an enzyme found in fireflies as a flash light to help read the DNA strand.
Scientists from all over the UK will be able to use the new technology for a variety of different purposes, from cancer research to veterinary science. Researchers at Liverpool, for example are looking at DNA sequencing of the malaria parasite. By studying changes in parasite DNA scientists aim to understand why some species of malaria can infect humans and others can only infect other animals.
Professor Neil Hall, at the University’s School of Biological Sciences, explains: “This new machine is invaluable not only for research into diseases such as cancer and malaria, but for our understanding of genetics as a whole. For example we have scientists looking at the DNA of fish in understanding how genes are activated and we have veterinary scientists looking at how illnesses in domestic pets can be passed to humans.
“We have a team of experts at the University that are skilled in using this technology and we are therefore in a position to welcome collaboration with other institutions in reaping the benefits of this.”
Current DNA sequencing has been pioneered by institutes like the Wellcome Trust’s Sanger Institute. It was here that scientists decoded a record-breaking two billion letters of DNA in the human genome. In order to do this, however the technology which was large and complex required hundred of machines housed in specially constructed buildings. The new state-of-the-art machine is now no bigger than a photocopier and stored in a laboratory at the University’s School of Biological Sciences.
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