A convergence of technologies, revolutionizing next-generation sequencing

By Samantha Black, PhD, The Science Advisory Board editor in chief

June 26, 2019 -- A new, powerful combination of biochips and next-generation sequencing (NGS) is capable of solving unique and important biological problems, such as single-cell, rare-cell or rare-molecule analysis, which NGS can't do on its own.

Through a convergence of technologies, NGS has revolutionized clinical genomics, direct-to-consumer genetic screening, metagenomics, pharmacogenetics, neuroscience, and stem cells. The applications that will one day be available in the future may be endless and have wide implications on medical and clinical technologies. In APL Bioengineering, from AIP Publishing, a group of researchers from Seoul National University explore the role advancements in biochip technology in advancing NGS,(alternatively known as high-throughput sequencing).

Biochips is the next advancement in NGS whereby they can be used to isolate single cells from a heterogeneous mix of a complex biological mass. With the emergence of scaling and throughput power of biochip technologies, biochips will be utilized in a number of diverse applications, from identifying rare bacterium to population-based clinical studies.

"There have been many experimental successes and failures within the biochip field, and one of the most important things we point out in our review is that these were not done in vain," said Amos Chungwon Lee, lead author and a graduate student in Sunghoon Kwon's Biophotonics and Nano Engineering Laboratory. "These technologies are now moving forward and being applied in real-world settings."

The researchers suggest that biochips have applications in cellular heterogeneity, with samples that are difficult to analyze using bulk sequencing. Using biochips, NGS resolution can be improved to allow for single-cell analysis at a high resolution. Moreover, these techniques lead to reduced consumption of materials and reagents saves preparation costs.

The paper goes on to describe two unique applications and approaches: microfluidic-based single-cell separation and laser-based single-cell separation in biochip technologies regarding next-generation sequencing.

Microfluidic single-cell separation chips have been developed for a variety of purposes. For example, to gather genotypic information, such as nucleotide or copy number variations; and to quantify nucleotide variations or copy number variations that evolve into a heterogeneous tumor mass.

Alternatively, laser-based micromanipulation-based techniques are advantageous in selecting desirable cells. While fewer cells of interest can be chosen through micromanipulation, genetic materials can be sequenced to a higher depth. Furthermore, the techniques introduced allow for staining on chip, thus providing additional information on protein and RNA expression, cell phenotype, etc.

Are you familiar with these applications of NGS? We want to know more!


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