A new technique that enables researchers to sequence RNA directly should boost our understanding of human biology and disease.
Existing approaches to sequence RNA require its initial conversion to DNA followed by multiple manipulations, which can introduce biases and artefacts. The new method, reported by Patrice Milos and colleagues in Nature, allows even short and small quantities of RNA to be sequenced directly, without the need for the DNA intermediate step.
DNA is converted to RNA en route to making proteins, the 'workhorses' of the cell. But whereas the DNA content or genome is by and large the same between cell types, the RNA content or transcriptome can vary depending on which genes are being actively expressed and environmental conditions. So understanding this functional output of the genome is an essential step on the way to understanding biology. It's thought that the new technique will lend itself to high-throughput and low-cost RNA sequencing, and so should enable a more detailed level of analysis of the transcriptome than was previously possible, and potentially identify new RNA types.
Patrice Milos (Helicos BioSciences Research, Cambridge, MA, USA)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature press release.
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