Researchers Sequence Dark Matter of Life

September 19, 2011

Researchers have developed a new method to sequence and analyze the dark matter of life—the genomes of thousands of bacteria species previously beyond scientists’ reach, from microorganisms that produce antibiotics and biofuels to microbes living in the human body.

Scientists from UC San Diego, the J. Craig Venter Institute and Illumina Inc., published their findings in the Sept. 18 online issue of the journal Nature Biotechnology. The breakthrough will enable researchers to assemble virtually complete genomes from DNA extracted from a single bacterial cell. By contrast, traditional sequencing methods require at least a billion identical cells, grown in cultures in the lab. The study opens the door to the sequencing of bacteria that cannot be cultured—the lion’s share of bacterial species living on the planet.

The UC San Diego coauthors are computer science postdoctoral researcher Hamidreza Chitsaz; mathematics professor Glenn Tesler; and computer science professor Pavel Pevzner.

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