Fastest DNA sequencing technique helps undiagnosed patients find answers in mere hours

Fastest DNA sequencing technique helps undiagnosed patients find answers in mere hours

A research effort led by Stanford scientists set the first Guinness World Record for the fastest DNA sequencing technique, which was used to sequence a human genome in just 5 hours and 2 minutes.

A new ultra-rapid genome sequencing approach developed by Stanford Medicine scientists and their collaborators was used to diagnose rare genetic diseases in an average of eight hours — a feat that’s nearly unheard of in standard clinical care.

“A few weeks is what most clinicians call ‘rapid’ when it comes to sequencing a patient’s genome and returning results,” said Euan Ashley, MB ChB, DPhil, professor of medicine, of genetics and of biomedical data science at Stanford.

Genome sequencing allows scientists to see a patient’s complete DNA makeup, which contains information about everything from eye color to inherited diseases. Genome sequencing is vital for diagnosing patients with diseases rooted in their DNA: Once doctors know the specific genetic mutation, they can tailor treatments accordingly.

Now, a mega-sequencing approach devised by Ashley and his colleagues has redefined “rapid” for genetic diagnostics: Their fastest diagnosis was made in just over seven hours. Fast diagnoses mean patients may spend less time in critical care units, require fewer tests, recover more quickly and spend less on care. Notably, the faster sequencing does not sacrifice accuracy.

A paper describing the researchers’ work published Jan. 12 in The New England Journal of Medicine. Ashley, associate dean of the Stanford School of Medicine and the Roger and Joelle Burnell Professor in Genomics and Precision Health, is the senior author of the paper. Postdoctoral scholar John Gorzynski, DVM, PhD, is the lead author.

January 14, 2022

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