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Beam the MinIon Up

NASA plans to test out Oxford Nanopore Technologies' MinIon to see whether it's possible to sequence DNA in space. If it is, the agency says that the approach can be applied to study how space affects organisms' DNA, track the health of the crew, and possibly identify DNA-based life from elsewhere in the universe.

"The ultimate goal is to be able to do on the space station or on Mars the things we are able to do normally on Earth when we sequence DNA," investigator Douglas Botkin says in a statement. "We want to replicate the laboratory environment, the high-tech equipment and those processes we use terrestrially, and try to demonstrate that functionality in a microgravity environment."

As GenomeWeb has previously reported, NASA will be sending two MinIons along with a Microsoft Surface tablet, nine MinIon flow cells, and nine syringes filled with frozen sequencing library to the International Space Station. Once there, astronauts will try to sequence phage lambda, bacterial, and mouse DNA to see whether it's possible to performed sequencing experiments in microgravity. They hope for it to be sent to the space station as part of a March 2016 resupply mission.

"If successful, this investigation will allow the implementation of the sequencer into operational microbial monitoring, a vast array of medical operations, a research facility on the ISS and integration into astrobiology-based exploration missions," NASA adds.