What Is the Potential for Genomic Technologies in Healthcare?

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My lab attempts to use new Genomic Technologies to understand the cause of diseases that may be caused by viruses, but we don't know. One of these technologies is called Next-generation sequencing or Ultra-deep sequencing. You've probably heard of sequencing the human genome, a major major project that took 10 plus years, and a whole lot of money.

Well, what you may not know is that the cost of sequencing, that is reading the genetic code, has actually dropped about 50,000 fold in the last four to five years. This is a major revolution, nothing in science changes by 50,000 fold in data space and time. For example, take Galileo's telescope compare it to the Hubble Telescope.

That's only about 1000 200 fold improvement, in 400 years of technology development. And yet in the last 4 or 5 five years, we've seen a 50, 000 fold improvement in our ability to acquire genetic information for the same cost. So this newer technology called Next Generation Sequencing makes parallel the sequencing of genetic code, so instead of sequencing one piece of DNA at a time, there are now machines that can sequence hundreds of millions if not billions of pieces of DNA simultaneously.

So our rate of acquiring genetic information, reading genetic code from any organism from you, the virus that infects you, the bacteria on your skin all of that can be now thousand of folds more efficiently than it ever done before and this enable us to do things that were just not even thinkable 10 years ago.

So for example if there is a sick patient we don't know what is causing their sickness and we suspect it might be infectious for example a lung disease or something, we can actually take a sample of that and read all the genetic code that's in there, the human genetic code, the virus genetic code maybe it's a bacteria it doesn't matter but we're not having to make guesses what might be there any more we are going with an unbiased approach and sequence everything and then do a lot of computation horse power, sort through all the sequences and find that needle on a hay stack that virus sequence hiding out among all the humans sequence.

And that allows us to pinpoint very precisely what in that human sample. That capability is fresh and it's new, it's never been on before or been available.