Nanopore sequencing in microgravity

Alexa B.R. McIntyre, Lindsay Rizzardi, Angela M. Yu, Noah Alexander, Gail L. Rosen, Douglas J. Botkin, Sarah E. Stahl, Kristen K. John, Sarah L. Castro-Wallace, Ken McGrath, Aaron S. Burton, Andrew P. Feinberg, Christopher E. Mason

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Rapid DNA sequencing and analysis has been a long-sought goal in remote research and point-of-care medicine. In microgravity, DNA sequencing can facilitate novel astrobiological research and close monitoring of crew health, but spaceflight places stringent restrictions on the mass and volume of instruments, crew operation time, and instrument functionality. The recent emergence of portable, nanopore-based tools with streamlined sample preparation protocols finally enables DNA sequencing on missions in microgravity. As a first step toward sequencing in space and aboard the International Space Station (ISS), we tested the Oxford Nanopore Technologies MinION during a parabolic flight to understand the effects of variable gravity on the instrument and data. In a successful proof-of-principle experiment, we found that the instrument generated DNA reads over the course of the flight, including the first ever sequenced in microgravity, and additional reads measured after the flight concluded its parabolas. Here we detail modifications to the sample-loading procedures to facilitate nanopore sequencing aboard the ISS and in other microgravity environments. We also evaluate existing analysis methods and outline two new approaches, the first based on a wave-fingerprint method and the second on entropy signal mapping. Computationally light analysis methods offer the potential for in situ species identification, but are limited by the error profiles (stays, skips, and mismatches) of older nanopore data. Higher accuracies attainable with modified sample processing methods and the latest version of flow cells will further enable the use of nanopore sequencers for diagnostics and research in space.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number16035
Journalnpj Microgravity
StatePublished - Jan 7 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Materials Science (miscellaneous)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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