Tricorder Tech: Nanopore sequencing in Mars, Europa and microgravity conditions

Order in reduced gravity. Ag phase gain (black line) and RMS oscillation (1 s bins, blue line) and the corresponding sequence are read by the first “Mars” parabola. Each reading is represented by a horizontal line (gray: partially or fully in transition; red: fully in transition) at the representative read quality point, �3̅ 393 (right axis). Vertical gray bands mark transitions between flight phases. b Top-scoring BLAST results for high-quality “Mars” reads, arrowed in panel a, length 6402. c Initial alignment of best match sequence, to J02459.1 Enterobacteria phage lambda, whole genome, length 48502 (20562 to 27113, score 8907 bits(9877), 0.0 wait, identities 6108/6651 (92%), gaps 395/6651 (5%), strand plus/minus). d Average genomic coverage lambda for all parabolas based on tombstone-aligned bases.

Nanopore sequencing, represented by Oxford Nanopore Technologies Minion, is a promising technology for small size, low weight (~100 g) and low power (per 100 g) and for life detection and microbial monitoring in space, including human space exploration. ∼1 W)

Nanopore sequencing, now ubiquitous on Earth and previously demonstrated by the International Space Station (ISS), involves the transfer of DNA through a biological nanopore in milliseconds. Nanopore sequencing is now available in both controlled laboratory settings as well as in a variety of environments including vehicles on land, air and space.

Future space missions may also use nanopore arrays in low-gravity environments, such as in the search for life on Mars (Earth-relative gravito-inertial acceleration (GIA) g = 0.378) or on icy moons such as Europa (g = 0.134) or Enceladus (g = 0.012).

On Mars as well as on Europa or near the Moon (g = 0.166) and low g levels, we demonstrate the applicability of the improved chemistry and sequencing protocols in parabolic flight and consistent performance at g levels. And even though it has significant oscillations at frequencies relevant to positioning.

Our work reinforces the use of nanopore sequencing in dynamic environments on Earth and in space, as part of the nucleic acid-based search for life beyond Earth.

NASA minION flight hardware for ISS experiments. Note that this charge is so small that the standard NASA asset account is the same amount as the charge itself. Credit: NASA/Sarah Castro

Christopher E. Carr, Noelle C. Bryan, Kendall N. Duko, Srinivasa A. Bahataru, Gary Ruvkun, Maria T. Zuber
Now published in npj Microgravity doi: 10.1038/s41526-020-00113-9

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