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Scientists Sequence a Whole Genome to Identify a Plant Species within Hours

07:43 EDT 21 Aug 2017 | Meridian Institute

In a new paper, researchers at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, United Kingdom, have detailed the opportunities that portable, real-time DNA sequencing could provide for plant sciences. Says Kew scientist Joe Parker: "This research proves that we can now rapidly read the DNA sequence of an organism to identify it with minimum equipment. Rapidly reading DNA anywhere, at will, should become a routine step in many research fields. Despite hundreds of years of taxonomic research, it is still not always easy to work out which species a plant belongs to just by looking at it. Few people could correctly identify all the species in their own gardens." The scientists used a device called the MinION, a portable DNA sequencer from Oxford Nanopore Technologies, to analyze plant species at a national park in Wales; the first time genomic sequencing of plants has been performed in the field, not the laboratory. Alexander Papadopulos, also a Kew scientist, said, "Accurate species identification is essential for evolutionary and ecological research, in the fight against wildlife crime and for monitoring rare and threatened species. Identifying species correctly based on what they look like can be really tricky and needs expertise to be done well… Our experiments show that by sequencing random pieces of the genome in the field it's possible to get very accurate species identification within a few hours of collecting a specimen. More traditional methods need a lot of lab equipment and have often only provided enough information to identify a sample to the genus level." Their study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Original Article: Scientists Sequence a Whole Genome to Identify a Plant Species within Hours

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