An inexpensive handheld device that can read strands of DNA has been hailed as revolutionary by scientists who tested the product.
The palm-sized sequencer gives researchers the power to analyse DNA almost anywhere, and could help track disease outbreaks, run checks on food, and combat the trafficking of endangered animals.
The gadget marks a major step towards what Mark Akeson, a co-inventor at the University of California Santa Cruz, called “the democratisation of sequencing”, where anyone can gather and process DNA samples for themselves.
Scientists have scores of projects in mind, but some future uses of the technology will inevitably be controversial. More advanced versions of the DNA reader could, for example, be used to mimic tests in the film Gattaca, where stands of hair are analysed to assess the genetic suitability of potential space flight personnel from an elite group.
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