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August 12, 2009

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Get genes scanned while visiting GP

IT might not be long until there is a gene scanner in every doctor's office, as DNA sequencing becomes faster and cheaper.

A Stanford University professor reported on Monday that he has sequenced his entire genome in a few weeks for under US$50,000 using a single machine.

Six years ago, hundreds of researchers at the Human Genome Project completed the same task for US$300 million. It took 13 years.

The breakneck pace of technological progress in the field of DNA sequencing has raised hopes that affordable gene scans will be available to all patients soon. Researchers hope cheap gene sequencing will lead to highly customized disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment tailored to an individual's genetic code.

Only a handful of human genomes have been sequenced so far. Typically those scans have used several machines working side-by-side to read the four chemicals that make up a "letter" in the DNA sequence.

"We've shown it can be done with one machine and just three people, with just one operating the machine," said Stanford bioengineering professor Stephen Quake, whose results were published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.


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