DNA sequenced in space for first time by NASA astronaut Kate Rubins - Watch video

Scientists say the ability to sequence the DNA of living organisms in space opens a whole new world of scientific and medical possibilities. 

Updated: Aug 30, 2016, 16:07 PM IST
DNA sequenced in space for first time by NASA astronaut Kate Rubins - Watch video
Image credit: NASA

New Delhi: For the first time in human history, DNA was successfully sequenced in microgravity over the weekend as part of the Biomolecule Sequencer experiment.

 

The task was performed by NASA biologist-astronaut Kate Rubins, using a miniaturized device that was delivered to the International Space Station (ISS) just last month.

Scientists say the ability to sequence the DNA of living organisms in space opens a whole new world of scientific and medical possibilities.

“The Biomolecule Sequencer investigation moved us closer to this ability to sequence DNA in space by demonstrating, for the first time, that DNA sequencing is possible in an orbiting spacecraft,” writes NASA.

As per NASA, Rubins used a commercially available DNA sequencing device called MinIONminion sequencer, developed by Oxford Nanopore Technologies, to sequence mouse, virus and bacteria.

Rubins, who has a background in molecular biology, was conducting the test aboard the station, researchers simultaneously sequenced identical samples on the ground.

The tests were set up to attempt to make spaceflight conditions, primarily microgravity, the only variables that could account for differences in results, says NASA.

As the researchers compare results from the sequences collected in microgravity and on Earth, so far everything seems to match up.

"Welcome to systems biology in space,” said Rubins after the first few DNA molecules had been sequenced successfully.

“It is very exciting to be with you guys together at the dawn of genomics biology and systems biology in space,” added Rubins as she went on to thank the ground team for their efforts.

Both the number and arrangement of chemical bases of DNA - adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine - differ among organisms. But, their order, or sequence, can be used to identify a specific organism.

This sequencing could be used to keep astronauts aboard the ISS healthy. Scientists consider the first DNA sequencing in space as a game changer.