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Shrink It Down

The shrinking of DNA sequencers is enabling the devices to be used in a wider range of applications, the Economist reports.

The first such portable platform, Oxford Nanopore's MinIon, is small enough to fit in a pocket, it says. The Economist notes, though, it doesn't quite reach the accuracy level lab-bound sequencers.

Still, the MinIon's small size means it can travel more widely, and it has ventured to the Antarctica and to sites of the recent Ebola outbreak, the Economist says. It's also being used to monitor food production lines for contamination and food provenance for adulteration. Additionally, the Economist says the MinIon is going to be put to work in Africa to identify a virus that is infecting cassava plants, a staple crop in the region. Currently, researchers there have to send their samples out for sequencing to Australia, South Korea, or Switzerland, a process that can take months.

Oxford Nanopore's Clive Brown tells the Economist that future devices could be used by nearly anyone to test anything around them. "The user will merely touch the device to something, whether it is blood, spit, or a supermarket chicken, and get a genomic profile in return," it writes. "Gene sequencing used to be the work of years; soon enough it may be ubiquitous and quotidian."

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