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Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) Technology

Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) Technology

Next Generation Sequencing (NGS), also known as high-throughput sequencing, revolutionized the field of genomics. Unlike traditional Sanger sequencing methods, NGS allows researchers to analyze vast amounts of DNA or RNA molecules simultaneously, offering a powerful tool for understanding the genetic basis of health, disease, and biological processes.

What is NGS (Next Generation Sequencing)?

NGS refers to a collection of modern sequencing technologies that enable the rapid and parallel sequencing of millions of DNA or RNA fragments. This stands in stark contrast to traditional Sanger sequencing, which can only sequence a single molecule at a time.  NGS achieves its high-throughput nature by breaking down the target DNA or RNA into smaller pieces, attaching identifiers to each fragment, and then sequencing them all simultaneously. The resulting data is then assembled to reconstruct the original sequence.

Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) Available at Cooperman Barnabas Medical  Center

Applications of NGS (Next Generation Sequencing)

NGS has a wide range of applications across various fields, including:

  • Genetic diagnostics: NGS is used to identify genetic mutations associated with inherited diseases, diagnose cancers by analyzing tumor genomes, and perform non-invasive prenatal testing.

  • Functional genomics: NGS can be used to study gene expression patterns, identify genes involved in specific biological processes, and understand how mutations affect gene function.

  • Metagenomics: NGS allows for the analysis of the entire genetic makeup of a microbial community, providing insights into the diversity and function of microbes in various environments.

  • Agriculture: NGS can be used to identify genes responsible for desirable traits in crops and livestock, aiding in breeding programs for improved yield and disease resistance.

  • Forensic science: NGS can be used to analyze DNA evidence from crime scenes, identify individuals, and reconstruct genetic relationships.

How Does NGS (Next Generation Sequencing) Work?

The basic workflow of NGS can be broken down into several key steps:

  1. Sample preparation: The DNA or RNA of interest is isolated and purified from the sample. Depending on the application, the target region of the genome or transcriptome may be amplified or enriched before further processing.

  2. Library preparation: The DNA or RNA is fragmented into short pieces and then converted into libraries. Adapters are attached to the fragments, which act as identifiers and facilitate subsequent sequencing steps.

  3. Sequencing: The library is loaded onto a sequencing instrument. There are various NGS platforms, each with its own specific chemistry, but the general principle involves reading and identifying the sequence of bases (A, C, G, T) in each fragment. Millions of fragments are sequenced simultaneously.

  4. Data analysis: The raw sequencing data needs to be processed and analyzed using bioinformatics tools. This involves assembling the short fragments into contiguous sequences, identifying genetic variations, and interpreting the results in the context of the biological question being addressed.

NGS (Next Generation Sequencing) Workflow

Here's a closer look at each step in the NGS workflow:

1. Sample preparation: Different types of samples can be used for NGS, including blood, tissue, and even single cells. The quality and quantity of the extracted DNA or RNA are crucial for successful sequencing.

2. Library preparation:  There are various library preparation methods available, but they all involve fragmenting the target molecules and attaching adapters. These adapters contain sequences that allow the fragments to be attached to a flow cell surface during sequencing and also contain unique barcodes that differentiate fragments from different samples being sequenced together.

3. Sequencing:  The sequencing process varies depending on the specific NGS platform, but some common technologies include:

  • Illumina sequencing: This widely used platform utilizes a process called "sequencing by synthesis." Fragments are attached to a flow cell surface, and fluorescently labeled nucleotides are introduced one at a time. The incorporation of a labeled nucleotide identifies the base at that position.

  • Ion Torrent sequencing: This platform uses a semiconductor chip and relies on the release of hydrogen ions during DNA polymerization to identify the incorporated base.

4. Data analysis:  The raw sequencing data consists of millions of short reads. Bioinformatic tools are used to:

  • Assemble reads: The short sequencing reads are assembled into longer contiguous sequences using reference genomes or de novo assembly methods.

  • Variant calling: Differences between the sequenced DNA and a reference genome are identified to detect single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), insertions/deletions (indels), and other variations.

  • Functional analysis: The identified variants are then analyzed to understand their potential functional impact on genes and biological pathways.

Advances in Next Generation Sequencing Technology

NGS technology is constantly evolving, offering several advantages over earlier methods:

  • Increased throughput: NGS platforms can sequence billions of bases in a single run, significantly surpassing the capacity of Sanger sequencing.

  • Reduced costs: The cost of NGS has decreased dramatically over time, making

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