Scientists Can Now Accurately Sequence Your Genome From Just One Cell

cells sprouting
This image shows cells sprouting from a special bead embedded in a gel matrix, taken by Esra Guc Of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Lausanne, Switzerland.

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Researchers led by X. Sunney Xie at Harvard University, discovered a way that we can now sequence a full genome from just one of your cells.The breakthrough was announced today, Dec. 20 in the journal Science. It is more reliable than previous methods that have been used to analyse genomes from small samples, which require the DNA to be multiplied, which creates errors and can sometimes copy the strand unevenly.

The technique is important for times when there’s only a very small sample to sequence from, for example, fetal cells isolated from the mother’s or DNA from a crime scene. It can also be used to understand the differences between cells — for example, what genetic changes make a cancer cell cancerous.

The method is so sensitive it can detect the individual mutations that crop up when the genome is copied during cell division.

The same researchers also published a second paper in Science today. They used the sequencing method to analyse the genomes of 99 sperm cells from one person, and they were able to see how sperm-making process, which involves two copies of the genome switching genes, influenced the genetic makeup of these cells.