What could be done with RNA and DNA sequencing that's 1000x cheaper than it's now?

post by ChristianKl · 2018-06-26T12:24:57.030Z · score: 17 (7 votes) · LW · GW · 7 comments

In How to Invent the Future Alan Kay proposes that a good way of inventing the feature is to take an exponential and project it into the feature. Afterwards it's useful to ask what can be done with the new capabilities.

On important exponential is the price of DNA and RNA sequencing that fell faster than Moore's law over the last 30 years.

What can be done in a future is radically cheaper sequencing?

7 comments

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comment by ChristianKl · 2018-06-26T12:35:20.553Z · score: 13 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Targeted phage-therapy as a replacement for antibiotics.

A huge problem with phage-therapy is that it only works if it's targeted to the specific bacteria strain that's supposed to be fought while antibiotics simply kill all bacteria that aren't immune.

If it's possible to sequence all the DNA in the blood as Karius does for a dollar that tells you about all the bacteria that there are in the blood and their quantity. Depending on the amount of reads that you do, you also get a good idea of the individual strains of the bacteria.

This information could be feed into a machine learning algorithm that puts out exactly the right phage-therapy cocktail for a given patient.

This would be a way to fight bacteria that works even if bacteria get immune to all our antibiotics given and given that bacteria's haven't evolved to be immune to viruses in the past there a good change that they won't be in the future as long as we spend enough time evolving a given virus to target changed bacteria strands.

Another huge advantage would be that it only kills the undesired bacteria. This means that if we combine it with probiotics we can change the bacteria culture of the spot we care about to be exactly the one we want. This means we can change around the bacteria population in the gut and the mouth. Changing the bacteria population in the mouth will give us benefits like getting rid of bacteria caused tooth decay.

comment by ryan_b · 2018-06-26T16:45:13.708Z · score: 7 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If we can run these tests in the home, that means we are effectively doing healthcare via RTS game.

I bet people would optimize their health then.

comment by ChristianKl · 2018-06-27T11:39:50.212Z · score: 9 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Is likely possible to hack into the way our immune system functions and let the relevant cells produce a specific RNA sequences who's quantity corresponds to the amount that a specific antibody binds it's targets. It's likely scalable in a way where you can have hundreds of antibody in parallel and produce RNA in quantities that correspond to the amount those antibodies bind.

Afterwards you can read the RNA to get the quantity of all the substances.

This means that you will get the ability to know the quantity of hundreds of different substances at the same time. This means you can cheaply test the quantity of all the different hormones and other substances in the blood which is presently very expensive and the present tests for most hormone tests we have unfortunately don't get cheaper with Moore's law.

comment by Oscar_Cunningham · 2018-06-26T19:17:14.270Z · score: 9 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If we can do testing quickly then we could use it for security. Perhaps (further into the future) your phone will test your DNA when you try to use it?

comment by ChristianKl · 2018-06-27T11:42:41.591Z · score: 9 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That doesn't sound very secure to me. I don't think treating DNA is secret is a good strategy.

comment by ryan_b · 2018-06-26T17:10:32.085Z · score: 8 (3 votes) · LW · GW

1. We could do much more thorough sampling of other environments. For example, we could sample wind traps, balloons, or seawater. This would provide much more granular information about how pathogens (or any microscopic organisms) move through the environment.

2. In general we should expect every person to know their complete DNA sequence. It should not be very difficult to continuously update a risk tracker for conditions and infections as new research becomes available, allowing automatically up-to-date personalized medicine.

3. Since we can keep re-sequencing DNA, we should be able to test for epigenetic effects much more thoroughly.

comment by JohnGreer · 2018-06-27T21:19:15.546Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That talk is one of my favorites ever and so inspiring. Upvoting for actually doing the exercise!