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British-Indian Shankar Balasubramanian knighted for his work on DNA sequencing

An Indian-origin British professor of chemistry and DNA expert at Cambridge University Shankar Balasubramanian received Knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II for their contributions.

He was recognised for his work as a co-inventor of Next Generation DNA sequencing (also known as Solexa sequencing), described as the most transformational advance in biology and medicine for decades.

About Shankar Balasubramanian

  • Born on 30 September 1966 in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. He had received PhD for research on the Reaction mechanism of the enzyme Chorismate synthase from University of Cambridge
  • He is recognised for his contributions in the field of nucleic acids. He is scientific founder of Solexa and Cambridge Epigenetix.
  • At present, he is Herchel Smith Professorof Medicinal Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry the University of Cambridge.
  • More recently, he has made major contributions to understanding the role of DNA-quadruplexes in cancer and invented a method for the sequencing of epigenetic modifications.
About Knighthood

It is one of the highest honours bestowed upon an individual in the UK and it doesn’t carry any military obligations to the sovereign. Persons receiving it are entitled with title ‘Sir’ before their name. The knighthoods are conferred by the Queen or a member of the Royal Family acting on her behalf in Britain. Queen usually presents insignia at the ceremony.

Solexa sequencing: It is an individual genome to be sequenced in a day or two at a cost of less than 1,000 pounds. Previously, sequencing the human genome took years of work and cost billions.

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NASA Scientist for first time sequences DNA in Space

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for the first time has successfully sequenced DNA in space aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

The genome sequencing was undertaken for the first time in microgravity as part of the Biomolecule Sequencer experiment performed by NASA astronaut Kate Rubins.

Key Facts

  • The experiments were undertaken by using commercially available DNA sequencing device called MinION on samples of mouse, virus and bacteria DNA.
  • The tests were set up for selected organisms whose DNA has already been completely sequenced in an attempt to make spaceflight conditions, primarily microgravity, the only variables that could account for differences in results.
  • The technology demonstration experiments validated that the device is durable enough to withstand vibration during launch and can operate reliably in a microgravity environment.
  • Significance: This experiment provides a way to sequence DNA in space which can help astronauts to diagnose an illness.
  • Besides, it will also help them identify microbes growing in the ISS to determine whether or not they represent a health threat.
  • The future explorers can potentially use the technology to identify DNA-based life forms beyond Earth.

How MinION device works?

  • A positive current through pores embedded in membranes inside the device called nanopores for DNA sequencing.
  • Individual DNA molecules partially block the nanopores and change the current in a way is unique to that particular DNA sequence.
  • At the same time, fluid containing a DNA sample passes through the device. By looking at these changes, researchers can identify the specific DNA sequence.
For more information: DNA Sequencing

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