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Sequencing in Space

Friday, September 25, 2015

Christopher Mason, Ph.D., associate professor of computational genomics and physiology & biophysics, was recently featured on science podcast Mendelspod. Listen here.

The last time we talked with Chris Mason of Weill Cornell Medical College the Supreme Court had just decided the controversial Myriad gene patent case. How forever ago two years can seem. Since then Chris has swabbed and sequenced the microbiome of New York City and began the project of sequencing in space.

His favorite research this year has been to longitudinally profile the genome, epigenome, transcriptome, metabolome and microbiome of identical twins, one in space and one on earth.

"We see that the gene expression changes dramatically as soon as you get into space, says Chris on today’s show. "What we’re looking for in particular are changes in RNA methylation--which has been related to circadian rhythm--and also RNA processing and stability. Really we’re looking at the epitranscriptomic changes of astronauts.”

Epitranscriptome? What’s that?

The second half of the interview is devoted to Chris’ assessment of the latest sequencing tools. Chris says he’s pleased with Oxford Nanopore’s MinION. Not only has he sequenced what he thinks is the longest continuous read (86 KB) on the MinION, he says the high error rate has come down and the GC bias is much improved. If this geneticist who sees his work as "a duty to the universe" had to choose one sequencer, which would it be?