Microbes are small living organisms. Almost all larger living things are hosts for microbes, but non-living things can carry organisms on their surfaces too. In laboratory testing, microbes are usually viruses or bacteria, or part of the genetic material of a specific individual or animal species. DNA tests that utilize next generation sequencing, like those tests run at Fry Labratories, are invaluable to testing microbes. Here are five benefits of using next gen sequencing for microbes and what it means to humans.
Safe Reproduction of Awful Strains of a Disease
There are several diseases in this world, all of which have a microbial beginning in a living host. Unfortunately, for scientists who are trying to eradicate all diseases, some of these strains of diseases are extremely unpleasant and fast-acting. To reproduce them in a human host in order to have enough of a particular strain would kill the host and potentially create a pandemic. Next gen sequencing safely reproduces the microbes of this strain so that scientists can study it and use the reproduced DNA to create a cure.
Mutations are a natural result of combining different types of DNA. Eventually, a mutation occurs and that mutation is carried over into the next generation until finally, an offspring is born with the same mutation found in both its parents, making the mutation dominant in the offspring. Some mutations are easy enough to live with. Others are not. Scientists look for the mutation using microbes that seek out and attach to the mutant cells. They could not do that without first using next gen sequencing to create the "seek and find" microbes in a controlled laboratory setting.
Uncovering the Biological Reason for Diversity in a Species Within the Same Environment
Why are two similar fish in the same river of vastly different sizes? Are they the same fish, or are the variant mutants? There must be something in the fish's environment that makes them the same while physically different. Microbes of a virus in the water or within the fish itself could be the cause.
Scientists start on the smallest scale for research and work their way up. Taking samples from these fish to sequence their DNA and then searching for levels of a particular known microbe to see if that is the cause is just the beginning. They will examine the viruses, bacteria, and fungi inside the two different fish and within the water to see if there are higher levels of a microbe in one fish and not the other. Sometimes scientists discover that the two fish are on the same family tree, but there is something microscopic in their bodies or environment that makes them very different.
Finding a New Microscopic Organism That Can Eradicate a Major Disease
Next gen sequencing has also been used to study new microscopic organisms that could hold the keys to destroying certain diseases. There may be some problems to this discovery, however. Perhaps the organism only exists in limited quantities in an enclosed area deep within the Brazilian jungle. Maybe it is the remnant of a species frozen in ice at a polar cap and discovered only after an ice core sample has melted completely.
Now, the scientists have to decide if they are going to eliminate the remaining numbers of this organism, or figure out if next gen sequencing can help reproduce and multiply this organism to create thousands of life-saving doses of a cure. Not an easy decision, but if the sequencing works on the organisms, the lab samples are the starting point and the rest of the organisms can remain in the wild.
What It Means for Humans
Clearly, there is a lot that next generation sequencing can do for the advancement of science in general, bu also for the advancement of medical science. Mastering the techniques of the procedure takes years of study and research. In the end, it is always worth it.