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Concepts for Ocean Worlds Life Detection Technology

Development of Nanopore Sequencing for Automated Ocean World Life Detection

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Development of Nanopore Sequencing for Automated Ocean World Life Detection
In this COLDTech project, a solid-state nanopore instrument will be developed for the detection and study of biomarkers for microbial life in ocean world environments. The Sequencing of Life on Ocean Worlds (SeqLOW) instrument is a solid-state nanopore platform designed for the detection and characterization of polyanionic and polycationic polymers. SeqLOW heritage is derived from Oxford Nanopore’s MinION instrument, a commercial off the shelf (COTS) product. The MinION is a small, portable DNA sequencing platform that consists of protein nanopores embedded in an electrically resistant polymer material. The MinION is third generation sequencing technology and is robust enough for in situ field analysis here on Earth. The system is slated to be tested on the International Space Station in the summer of 2016. However, the integrity of the current protein nanopore membrane used in the MinION is not sufficiently robust to survive long duration space missions. The SeqLOW solid-state nanopore platform will advance current state-of-the-art nanopore sensing technology as a life detection instrument for use in future NASA missions. SeqLOW COLDTech development goals are: 1) Development and fabrication of robust solid-state nanopore membranes with arrays of different pore diameters for detection of multiple types of biomarkers (i.e. DNA, charged proteins, amino acids, etc.). 2) Integration of the SeqLOW membranes into a microfluidic platform for in situ life detection. Microfluidics will be used to carry out sample processing, concentration, and delivery of the sample material to the solid-state membrane for analysis. Technologies and methods will be developed for sensor operation during deep space missions that eliminate: a) loss of analyte integrity, b) disruption of nanopore aperture, or c) disruption of pore current by sample interferences. SeqLOW directly addresses the goals of the COLDTech program and NASA by “development of spacecraft-based instruments and technology for surface and subsurface exploration of ocean worlds such as Europa, Enceladus, and Titan.” SeqLOW also will address the NASA Planetary Science Division’s strategic goals and objectives and is focused on the detection of extant life in the “Ocean Worlds” of the outer Solar System. More »

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