Blog:The Current State and Future Prospects of Long-Read Sequencing
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Novogene ▴ 430

A huge advantage of long-read sequencing compared to traditional short-read methods is its ability to sequence complex repetitive regions of the genome, such as GC-rich areas or those of high homology, regions often associated with disease-causing variants. PacBio’s HiFi sequencing, with read lengths of 15-20kb, has gained attention for its ability to provide accurate and comprehensive genomic information, offering a consolidated approach and eliminating the need for inference tools, error correction and polishing of reads. This not only streamlines the sequencing process but also allows researchers to focus on developing advanced data analysis tools and pipelines robust enough for translation to clinical settings.

Full-Length Isoform Sequencing

Another aspect of long-read sequencing related to disease biology is its ability to sequence across the full length of isoforms. Isoforms are the different forms of a gene that are produced due to alternative splicing, often resulting in a disease-causing variant of the gene to be expressed. Short-read sequencing often falls short in capturing full isoforms due to limits on read-length. Long-read sequencing technologies have the ability to sequence full isoforms without the need for assembly, providing a comprehensive understanding of gene expression and regulation.

Addressing Throughput and Cost Concerns

While long-read sequencing has offered groundbreaking insights, concerns regarding throughput and cost have persisted. However, recent advancements, such as the introduction of the PacBio Revio, have begun to address these challenges, making HiFi sequencing more scalable and cost-effective. This platform has addressed the need for affordable high throughput sequencing required for large scale projects.

A round table discussion about the everchanging landscape of sequencing touched upon the factors involved in deciding whether to outsource sequencing or keep it in-house, many of which concerned throughput requirements. Industrial scale platforms such as the Revio and the Oxford Nanopore PromethION are designed to reduce the cost of high throughout as much as possible, meaning outsourcing larger projects to sequencing providers is the most cost-effective way of keeping the cost of large-scale projects down.

Integration of Omics and Single-Cell Analysis

The integration of multiple omics layers, including genome, methylome, transcriptome, and proteome, has become increasingly feasible with long-read sequencing technologies. This holistic approach not only enhances our understanding of complex biological systems but also holds promise for precision medicine and personalised healthcare.

Single-cell analysis, powered by long-read sequencing, offers unprecedented insights into cellular heterogeneity and transcriptomic diversity. By capturing full-length transcripts and resolving isoforms, long-read sequencing enables researchers to unravel complex cellular dynamics and disease mechanisms at the single-cell level.

Future Directions and Challenges

As the field of long-read sequencing continues to evolve, future efforts are expected to focus on expanding population studies, improving automation for sample preparation, and enhancing data analysis capabilities. Additionally, advancements in technology, such as ONT’s ultra-long reads and improved base-calling accuracy software, hold promise for further accelerating genomic research and its clinical applications.

However, challenges remain, including data storage issues, standardisation of workflows, and the need for robust quality control measures. Addressing these challenges will be crucial for realizing the full potential of long-read sequencing in transforming genomics and healthcare.

In conclusion, long-read sequencing technologies have revolutionised our ability to decode the complexities of the genome and hold immense promise for advancing precision medicine, understanding disease mechanisms, and driving innovation in healthcare. With continued advancements and collaborative efforts, the future of long-read sequencing looks brighter than ever, poised to contribute greatly to the future of genomics and its transition into clinical settings.

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