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Cracking the Genetic Code, One RNA Strand at a Time

Linda Seaton
| Nov 03, 2014

NextSeq single cell RNA librariesDr. Norma Neff, Ph.D., is like a modern-day Sherlock Holmes: she sifts through genetic sequences the way a detective would comb through clues in a mystery. After slogging through the thousands of yeast genes that make them the microscopic, budding fungi that ferment our beer and raise our dough, Dr. Neff helped discover a yeast gene at Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Center in New York about a decade ago. The gene contains an unusual molecular protein in it—an intein, or a segment of a protein that is able to excise itself from the string of base-pairs that form the protein’s overall structure.

This was an unusual discovery. And today, Dr. Neff applies the same level of curiosity and exploration to her work as DNA Sequencing Core Director at Stanford University Medical Center in California. Dr. Neff, along with the leader of the lab, Stephen Quake, D. Phil., manages support for a team that is sequencing RNA with the NextSeq 500 system. They are cataloging the thousands of genes that make our brains pulse with electricity to direct the movement of our bodies, and those that supply our pancreas with juices that break down and digest the food we consume.

The NextSeq 500 system is a perfect workhorse for the lab’s needs. The team can pool and sequence hundreds of individual single-cell RNA-seq libraries at a time. The system boasts superior data quality in a lightning fast turnaround, and flaunts an easy clean-up to boot. This is how Dr. Neff and her team can keep up the genetic sleuthing it needs to continue their mission of decoding the developmental code of our organs.