A quantitative biologist at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) and collaborators today published results of experiments that demonstrate the power of so-called single-molecule sequencing, which was recently introduced but whose use has so far been limited by technical issues.
The team, led by CSHL Assistant Professor Michael Schatz and Adam Phillippy and Sergey Koren of the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center and the University of Maryland (UMD), has developed a software package that corrects a serious problem inherent in the new sequencing technology: the fact that every fifth or sixth DNA "letter" it generates is incorrect. The high error rate is the flip side of the new method's chief virtue: it generates much longer genome "reads" than other technologies currently used, up to 100 times longer, and thus can provide a much more complete picture of genome structure than can be obtained with current, "2nd-gen" sequencing technology.
Using mathematical algorithms, Schatz and the team have preserved the great advantage of the "3rd-gen" method while all but eliminating its chief flaw. They have reduced the error rate from about 15% or greater to less than one-tenth of one percent. This mathematical "fix" which has been published in open-source code to the World Wide Web greatly increases the practical utility of 3rd-gen sequencing for the entire biomedical research community.