Next-generation sequencing is a powerful technology that allows us to make genomic discoveries in just hours, days, or even weeks. As a result, next-generation sequencing has endless applications, from cancer research to forensic detection of genetic risk factors. Here are the four revolutionary ways next-generation sequencing is changing oncology and healthcare as we know it today.
One of the most promising benefits of next-generation sequencing in cancer research. Next-generation sequencing allows for a more in-depth analysis of cancer genomes and has discovered new biomarkers to detect specific cancers. For example, researchers examined and sequenced the blood DNA from nearly 500,000 adults and found 16 genetic variants associated with esophageal adenocarcinoma. One then validates these findings in an independent study cohort with similar results.
Furthermore, next-generation sequencing is revolutionizing cancer immunotherapy by allowing us to understand better which therapy will work best for each patient. Cancer immunotherapy is a treatment that uses your body’s immune system to fight against cancer. It harnesses the power of T cells that circulate through the body and attack invaders, including cancerous cells. First, the patient’s T cells are re-educated in the lab to learn how to attack the specific type of cancer. The new and improved T cells are then reintroduced into the patient, where they go back to work fighting against the disease.
New Targeted Therapies
Next-generation sequencing can also identify mutations in genes that drive tumor growth or help tumors evade treatment, which highlights potential new targets for therapeutic intervention. For example, researchers discovered that the rare gene mutation LOH1 predisposes patients to triple-negative breast cancer, a particularly aggressive subtype of breast cancer.
Scientists have recently used next-generation sequencing to develop a new gene therapy that can edit DNA. This technology could one day enable doctors to treat some genetic diseases at their source by correcting disease-causing mutations in situ—inside the very cells where those mutations arose. As a result, we are no longer limited to treating these genetic diseases’ downstream symptoms or complications. Instead, we can now remove or correct the root cause with just one treatment.
What are the Three Basic Steps Used in Next-Generation Sequencing?
Preparation of the Library
Fragments of DNA from the patient to be sequenced are amplified and tagged with adapters that allow the fragments to be easily attached to a sequencing “bead.”
Next-generation sequencing begins by peeling away the beads, allowing the intact DNA fragments to fall into a collection tube.
Next-generation sequencing results are analyzed using bioinformatics tools and procedures that assign a unique next-generation sequencing identifier to each DNA fragment. Once all the patient’s DNA fragments have been identified, they can be compared to one another in their entirety to determine which samples are more similar.
Next-generation sequencing is changing how we can get answers to our medical questions and bring health and happiness to everyone. It is a fantastic technology that one can use for many different applications, like detecting cancer, finding cures and therapies, making personalized treatments, and much more. There is no doubt that next-generation sequencing will continue to revolutionize the world as we know it today.