A more promising approach is to watch a molecule of double-stranded DNA being constructed from a single strand in real time. The trouble is that this occurs on such a small scale that it has been impossible to see. Now a team at Pacific BioSciences in Menlo Park, California, says it has worked out how this can be done (Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1162986).
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So far, the team has built a chip housing 3000 ZMWs, which the company hopes will hit the market in 2010. By 2013, it aims to squeeze a million ZMWs onto a single chip and observe DNA being assembled in each simultaneously. Company founder Stephen Turner estimates that such a chip would be able to sequence an entire human genome in under half an hour to 99.999 per cent accuracy for under $1000.
Update on Pacific BioSciences sequencing technology
New Scientist: Molecular fireworks could produce '30-minute genomes':