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DNA helix and genetic sequence for article on Next Generation Sequencing.
Published On: June 1st, 2021

What is Laboratory Automation?

Next generation sequencing protocols can be used to map an entire genome and its three billion base pairs as well as mapping smaller areas of particular interest. The flexibility of next gen sequencing allows a wide array of approaches while continually lowering costs. Where applicable, focusing on a specific section of a genome saves time, money, and resources.

Read on to learn more about sequencing methods.

What is Next Generation Sequencing?

Next generation sequencing (Next gen sequencing or NGS) is a method of sequencing massive DNA molecules with decreased sequencing times and costs that are opening up many new applications.

When the first human genome was finally sequenced in its entirety just 18 years ago in 2003, the Sanger or “Shot Gun” sequencing technique had taken over 10 years to complete. Compare that with next gen sequencing that can perform the identical task in just one day.

In addition, sequencing costs have dropped faster than the well known Moore’s Law in electronics, with $1,000 genomes now the norm and indications that $100 genomes are coming soon.

The advances in genetic sequencing have evolved at astronomical speeds allowing for significant developments in the basic sciences, pharmaceutical development, and our understanding of human disease.

Practical Uses of Next Generation Sequencing

We know that all diseases (e.g., cancer, diabetes, strokes) and infections (e.g., bacterial, fungal, viral, parasitic) are, if not fully mediated by, then highly affected by genetic expression.

Cancer has long been suspected of being related to faulty DNA sequences, and with next gen sequencing, science has been able to prove this with rarely seen clarity.

One of the most promising cancer research areas and future treatments involve using next gen sequencing protocols to develop individualized therapies that will target the specific genomic abnormalities found in a given patient’s cancer cells. This is a rapidly developing field of cancer treatment made possible only with the development of next gen sequencing.

Infection Identification and Sequencing

Another significant advance produced thanks to next gen sequencing is the rapid identification and treatment of infections in critically ill hospital patients. Nosocomial or hospital-acquired infection rates have hovered around 5 percent to 10 percent for many decades.

One reason it has been so difficult to reduce this number substantially is due to the length of time it takes to identify infectious organisms. Viruses, fungi, bacteria, and parasites can all play a role with countless subtypes in each class of organism. The days or weeks needed to culture and accurately identify an infectious organism so the ideal treatment can be administered causes increased morbidity and mortality, especially in critically ill patients.

Next Gen Sequencing Protocols

While not yet in regular practice, studies are being performed using next gen sequencing protocols to determine if the precise identification of infectious agents in a matter of hours rather than days or weeks can result in rapid targeted therapy and improved survival.

Only next generation sequencing has the potential to allow physicians to prescribe the precise medication to combat a potentially deadly infection within hours of symptom onset. This could save upwards of 95,000 lives each year.

Infectious Pathogen Identification

Next generation sequencing for infectious pathogen identification still has some problems to overcome. For example, many microorganisms have not had their DNA or RNA sequenced sufficiently, making the library of pathogen sequences smaller than the fully sequenced human genome.

However, as more pathogens are sequenced, this should become less of an issue. Achieving widespread acceptance of next generation sequencing in hospital laboratories and among hospital regulatory boards also presents a challenge, albeit not an insurmountable one.

The Future of Next Generation Sequencing

With such a rapid and dramatic expansion in the ability to easily, inexpensively, safely, and accurately sequence variable lengths of nucleic acids in humans, plants, and microorganisms, it should be no surprise that next generation sequencing protocols have been and are still being developed for everything from public health to food safety to plant virology.

A single viral pathogen type can destroy thousands of acres of food crops, devastate farmers’ livelihoods, and drive up consumers’ prices. The ability to identify such a virus before it spreads and destroys by using next generation sequencing holds the promise of a level of crop security never before seen in the history of agriculture.

The future of next generation sequencing of DNA and RNA is extremely bright, with applications extending as far as scientists’ imaginations. It is not an exaggeration to say that the development of next generation sequencing will always be viewed as a major breakthrough in the progress of biological sciences.

Contact Hudson Robotics today to request a consultation or to learn more about our host of products to assist you with next generation sequencing or to learn about many new options to enhance your laboratory experience.