September 27, 2022

A Primer on Next Generation Sequencing


Digital screen with DNA strands and data background. Double helix structure. Nucleic acid sequence. Genetic research. 3d illustration.

New technologies have the power to revolutionize the medical world to the great benefit of mankind. And next generation sequencing, or NGS, is no exception. Through this technology, it’s possible to look at the whole human genome and glean truly helpful information faster than ever before. Want to know more about this amazing tech advancement? Here’s what you need to know about next generation sequencing.

Next Generation Sequencing, Defined

Next generation sequencing is a massively parallel high throughput sequencing technology for DNA and RNA. The speed and scalability are unmatched by any other process, allowing labs to produce results in mere hours. By providing the nucleic acid strand sequence in a timely manner, this technology has effectively transformed modern medicine in amazing ways.

The Development of Next Generation Sequencing

Prior to the development of Next Generation Sequencing, Sanger sequencing was the gold standard. This type of sequencing took about 13 years – and over $2.5 billion – to fully sequence the human genome.

To have the desired impact on the medical field, sequencing would have to speed up considerably and cost a whole lot less. Fortunately, researchers were able to accomplish that goal by developing NGS technology. Nowadays, fully sequencing the human genome can take less than a day and for just under $1,000.

How NGS Works – and Its Leading Applications

When it comes to sequencing the genome, NGS pieces together fragmented DNA using multiple cycles. The researchers typically use either oligonucleotide ligation or polymerase-based extension to amplify and build out the DNA sequences. Longer reads are also possible nowadays when using larger DNA nucleotide strand fragments.

The technology can deliver long-read sequencing through two main processes: nanopore sequencing and single-molecule real-time sequencing. With nanopore sequencing, the computer decodes changes as the electrical current runs through each strand. Single-molecule real-time sequencing uses light instead to measure the nucleotides in real-time.

Next-generation sequencing has been making waves in the medical world, and for good reason. This technology may allow doctors to improve patient outcomes with earlier diagnoses, targeted therapies, and ongoing monitoring.

Although it’s still early in the clinical use of the technology, NGS testing is becoming more common in the detection, treatment, and monitoring of many serious conditions, such as:

  • Infectious diseases
  • Lymphoma
  • Acute myelogenous leukemia
  • Small cell lung cancer
  • Early onset dementia

As researchers learn more about the genetic component in disease development and progression, next generation sequencing will give doctors even more insights on how to proceed with the care process. In addition, advancements within the NGS tech world will add to its value. Soon, it will be a part of everyone's question, “DNA testing near me?”.

Spatial sequencing, for example, lets researchers dig deeper into the cell composition and how it interacts with its natural environment. Single-cell sequencing may prove helpful as well by using nucleic acid data to clear up any confusion brought on by ensemble average readings.

The advancements have sped up over the years, too, as an understanding of the technology aids in its improvements. So, it likely won’t be long before NGS evolves once again to further improve patient care outcomes.


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