Clinical OMICS

JAN-FEB 2018

Healthcare magazine for research scientists, labs, pathologists, hospitals, cancer centers, physicians and biopharma companies providing news articles, expert interviews and videos about molecular diagnostics in precision medicine

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Page 31 of 51

Data & Informatics 30 Clinical OMICs January/February 2018 F ew gadgets in modern science are more intriguing than a hand-held, USB compatible, real-time DNA sequencer. The possibility of sequencing anyone, anywhere, and any- time for just about any reason is tantalizing. Making that a reality, however, is difficult when the current portable tech- nology has an inaccuracy rate that is an order of magnitude higher than the genetic differences between human beings. That has made the holy grail of on-the-spot DNA finger- printing impossible. Until Now In November, a team of scientists from Columbia University and the New York Genome Center (NYGC) reported in the journal eLife that they were able to verify the identity of a human DNA sample within three minutes of sequencing, with 99.9% confidence, using software they created for use with the MinION portable DNA sequencer. "We thought: 'If we can make this work, it would democ- ratize DNA fingerprinting," said Sophie Zaaijer, Ph.D., lead author of the study. Zaaijer is a former member of the NYGC and is now a member of the Runway Startup Post- doc Program at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute. The technique, called MinION Sketching, can quickly and accurately identify people and cell lines using DNA. The technology puts field forensics by non-scientists, such as law enforcement agents, within reach. But, the most imme- diate application for its use, the study's authors say, is cell- line authentication, which could potentially save billions in preclinical research dollars. "MinION Sketching is possible and immediately applica- ble for cell-line authentication in labs," Zaaijer said. And it is greatly needed. A 2015 analysis published in the online journal PLoS Biology found that the prevalence of irrepro- ducible preclinical research exceeds 50% in the United States alone, costing approximately $28 billion in waste. Preclinical research can take years, during which times labeling errors and accidental contamination are real possibilities. Without thorough authentication, the wrong cell lines may be listed in scientific publication, spreading incorrect information through the scientific community, Zaaijer said. "This even- tually results in preclinical labs not being able to translate their findings to the treatment of patients." Cell-Line Authentication Currently, few scientists spend the time and money required to send samples to a lab equipped to validate their cell lines, said Yaniv Erlich, Ph.D., senior author of the study. Erlich is a computer science professor at Columbia University and an adjunct core member at NYGC. "In this era of instant video streaming, online conversa- tions with people on the other side of the globe, and search- ing Google records in a fraction of second, it is frustrating to stall a competitive research program for two to three weeks just to verify a cell line," he said. Better, Faster, Cheaper Columbia University and the New York Genome Center Scientists Create Software that Improves Accuracy of Human DNA Matching By Camille Mojica Rey, Ph.D. Natali_Mis / Getty Images

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