back to article Astronauts sequence DNA in space for the first time

DNA has been sequenced in space for the first time during a series of experiments performed last weekend by biologist-turned-NASA astronaut, Kate Rubins. Rubins joined Japanese astronaut Takuya Onishi and Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin on an adventure aboard the International Space Station in July. The team are expected …

  1. James 51 Silver badge

    “It is very exciting to be with you guys together at the dawn of genomics biology and systems biology in space," she said.

    Every time I read something like this it makes me cringe. It reeks of someone in PR with a quote template that has mated with a jargon dictionary.

  2. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

    Is that a mars bar in your pocket...

    Or a handheld DNA scanner?

    Wonderful idea though, but with also potential downsides if abused. Just hope we get to see these used for the good of mankind.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Is that a mars bar in your pocket...

      Did not know that Ethan Hawke posted on el reg. Though that begs the question of who is Uma Thurman(*)

      * The scene with the sequencer from GATTACA...

  3. Hollerithevo Silver badge

    They took e coli into space????

    Accident waiting to happen...

    1. MAF

      Re: They took e coli into space????

      Actually, they each took trillions of them and other bacteria & viruses- see 'Human Microbiota' (Google is your friend here. :-))

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: They took e coli into space????

      What MAF said, plus from the article it appears that they only took prepared DNA samples into space. That avoids all the difficult sample prep work. It doesn't have much to say about what the effects of being in space might have on DNA in living organisms but that could be addressed by before and after sampling on the ground. In fact it sounds more like the sort of thing that you'd get out of a space agency/school publicity stunt: how do these seeds germinate in space etc.

    3. hplasm Silver badge

      Re: They took e coli into space????

      "So what?" Leading British scientist Dr Quatermass was quoted as saying. "The chances of anything... Oh I say! Look at that...!"

      1. Little Mouse

        Re: They took e coli into space????

        Everyone knows that biological samples sent in to space look like green* lumpy jelly, and can wobble without external stimulus.

        What else is there to know?

        (*probably green - it's hard to tell in B&W)

  4. gregthecanuck

    All I can think of looking at that photo is...

    "Someone should paint/stitch/draw alien faces on the brown covers on the spacesuits!"

  5. Spoobistle

    Nanu Nanu Pores

    I don't suppose anyone expected DNA sequencing not to work in space - I guess this was more about showing astronauts could do it themselves without an elaborate lab setup. By extension you can do sequencing "anywhere" (I think these things have already been used on plagues in various earthly locations).

    Maybe even the NHS will get them one day...

    1. MAF

      Re: Nanu Nanu Pores

      It's still in development and getting feedback from 'beta' user groups. That hasn't stopped it already being used to deal with medical emergencies:

    2. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Nanu Nanu Pores

      Or to test it before installing the minION on the robotic probes we will send to Proxima b and any likely looking moons of Jupiter, or comets etc.

      But do aliens use DNA?

    3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Nanu Nanu Pores

      I don't suppose anyone expected DNA sequencing not to work in space

      Not so fast. A lot of chemical reactions work very differently in the absence of convection. This is doubly so for complex reactions where you have to go through multiple reagents at each stage. So the fact that a piece of equipment to perform chemical reactions works in 1G does not mean it will work in 0G.

  6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "lambda phage, a bacteria"

    Apart from the fact that the singular of bacteria is bacterium, a phage isn't a bacterium, it's a virus.

    What I'm really left wondering is why microgravity should affect DNA. Radiation, OTOH, should be a consideration.

    1. Smooth Newt

      It is very exciting to be with you guys at the dawn of [insert buzzwords here] in space

      I think they genuinely struggle to find things to do which are newsworthy these days. Launching humans, and all the gear needed to sustain and recover them, into orbit is an appallingly uneconomic way of doing scientific research in space. The only real justification is that a constant stream of "human element" stories keeps the hoi poloi willing to fund it.

    2. Mage Silver badge

      why microgravity should affect DNA

      It's probably NOT about real changes to DNA, but apparent changes due to some unexpected effect of microgravity on the minION tester. It's an interesting bit of kit. See Wikipedia minION and related articles.

      Good news that the gadget gives same the result on ISS.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: why microgravity should affect DNA

        "some unexpected effect of microgravity on the minION tester"

        There are millions of gadgets. Are they going to fly examples of all of them to test in microgravity for unexpected effects?

        BTW, what sort of sample prep is needed for this? The nanaopore FAQ said read the list of laboratory equipment but didn't provide one that I can find. The idea of using a centrifuge on the ISS seems interesting....

        1. David Pollard

          Re: why microgravity should affect DNA

          If is did, wouldn't this be because you were holding it wrong?

    3. Filippo

      It's unlikely that microgravity affects DNA. But it might affect the sequencing method. That's useful information.

      Also, it's good to test for unlikely things too; sometimes you get lucky and find something weird.

    4. Dave 126 Silver badge

      >a phage isn't a bacterium, it's a virus.

      Quite right. Maybe the writer got confused by phage being an abbreviation bacteriophage - a virus that 'eats' bacteria?

  7. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Actually I'd use it to study the bactiera on the walls of the modules.

    With zero g stuff tends to stick around in the air.

    Combine that with a high(ish) radiation environment and (potentially) the crew can go down with all sorts of weird s**t.

    That's of course before we get to "lifeless" planets that turn out to be more lively than expected.

    Good to know this will be available for BEO missions by the time they start.

  8. LINCARD1000

    A primitive precursor... a Start Wreck style medical tricorder?

    It's life, Jim, but not as we know it.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    CSI Called...

    CSI now wants to do a CSI ISS location shoot.

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