Melbourne, Sep 29 (PTI) Scientists have developed a new smartphone app that can analyse the genome of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, that causes COVID-19, within minutes.

Described in the journal Communications Biology, the ‘Genopo’ app makes genetic material more accessible to remote or under-resourced regions, as well as the hospital bedside.

‘Not everyone has access to the high-power computing resources that are required for DNA and RNA analysis, but most people have access to a smartphone,’ said Ira Deveson from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Australia.

‘Fast, real-time genomic analysis is more crucial today than ever, as a central method for tracking the spread of coronavirus. Our app makes genomic analysis more accessible, literally placing the technology into the pockets of scientists around the world,’ Deveson said.

The researchers tested Genopo on the raw sequencing data of virus samples isolated from nine Sydney patients infected with SARS-CoV-2.

They extracted and amplified the virus RNA from a swab sample, sequencing the amplified DNA with a MinION sequencer device and analysing the data on a smartphone.

The Genopo app took an average 27 minutes to determine the complete SARS-CoV-2 genome sequence from the raw data, which the researchers say opens the possibility to do genomic analysis at the point of care, in real time.

The researchers also showed that Genopo can be used to profile DNA methylation — a modification which changes gene activity — in a sample of the human genome.

‘This illustrates a flexible, efficient architecture that is suitable to run many popular bioinformatics tools and accommodate small or large genomes,’ said Deveson.

‘We hope this will make genomics much more accessible to researchers to unlock the information in DNA or RNA to the benefit of human health, including in the current pandemic,’ Deveson added. PTI SAR SAR

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