“RNA sequencing is one of the most direct and unambiguous ways to measure the state of living cells. Native RNA sequencing of the type performed by Astronaut Arnold on the ISS is particularly exciting because it preserves information about nucleotide modifications that occur after transcription. We think that RNA sequencing will be invaluable for monitoring the health of astronauts on long missions — to Mars for example.” – UC Santa Cruz’s Nanopore Research Group
August 30, 2018 | Oxford Nanopore Technologies
This week, for the first time, direct RNA sequencing (mapping the order of bases on a native strand of RNA) has been successfully carried out in space.
Aboard the International Space Station, NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold used the Oxford Nanopore MinION to sequence strands of RNA. Nanopore sequencing is the only existing method by which native RNA strands can be sequenced, without using copies.
This builds on previous work that allowed astronauts Kate Rubins and Peggy Whitson to perform the first DNA sequencing in a microgravity environment, and to use DNA sequencing to analyze microbial DNA on board the ISS.
The ability to sequence both DNA and RNA in a microgravity environment opens up a range of potential biological analyses that could be performed in space. NASA scientists are interested in identifying onboard microorganisms, monitoring changes in human health or microbiomes in response to spaceflight, performing biomedical research in microgravity, or even possibly aid in the detection of DNA- or RNA-based life elsewhere in the universe.