First DNA Sequencing Done In Space

Posted: Aug 31 2016, 6:22am CDT | by , in Latest Science News

First DNA Sequencing Done in Space
NASA Astronaut Kate Rubins sequenced DNA in space for the first time ever for the Biomolecule Sequencer investigation, using the MinION sequencing device. Credits: NASA
  • First Experiment of DNA Sequencing Successfully Done in Microgravity by NASA astronaut Kate Rubins this weekend aboard the International Space Station

A novel experiment of DNA sequencing in outer space has brought about a virtual revolution.

This is the first time such a thing has happened. DNA was sequenced in the microgravity situation of outer space. This was a part of the Biomolecule Sequencer experiment which took place under the tutelage of astronaut Kate Rubins.

All this took place aboard the ISS. This sequencing of the DNA of various organisms in space opens up a novel chapter in the miracles wrought by science and medicine. Most researchers are calling it a revolutionary step.

DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid. It contains the basic instructions necessary for every organism to thrive on planet earth. The four letters A, G, C and T represent the chemical bases of DNA.

They are: adenine, guanine, cytosine and thymine. The quantity and array of these bases varies with the particular organism. Thus each organism has a unique DNA that is appropriate to that organism alone.

The Biomolecule Sequencer allowed for the analysis of DNA in conditions of outer space. Now finally scientists can identify a malady or any bacteria or viruses existing aboard the ISS, according to NASA.

Thus health threats could be gauged well in advance. Not only would any long journey missions have the DNA analyzer on board to identify any health hazards but the Biomolecule Sequencer would also come in handy in examining the microbes (if any) that exist in the worlds beyond the earth.

Samples of mice, virus and bacteria DNA were sent to the space station to be tested by a device known as a MinION. This device sends a positive current through nanopores imbedded in the membranes of the device.

Fluid containing DNA flows through the device at the same time. DNA molecules clog the nanopores and this allows for a thorough analysis of the particular DNA sequence.

Astronaut Kate Rubins has a degree in molecular biology. She conducted the tests aboard the ISS while other researchers conducted the tests from ground control.

There are of course challenges to the use of the Biomolecule Sequencer in conditions of microgravity. In fact, it is quite an ordeal. The presence of air bubbles in the fluid containing the DNA is just one of the complications that arise in space.

While on earth, the bubbles rise to the surface and can be removed, in space such is not the case and the unpredictability of the situation demands novel means of dealing with the problem.

The sequencing of DNA on board the ISS allows astronauts to know with certainty what other microorganisms are sharing the environment with them. This could help in the eradication of these microbes and thus ensure a safer stay in conditions of microgravity.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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