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- "Thinking Machine supercomputers and gene sequencers break down the strand in minutes..."
- —Mr. DNA(src)
The process of determining the precise order of nucleotides within a DNA molecule is called DNA sequencing. The nucleotide order is regarded as the main information in a DNA molecule. It is commonly referred to as the DNA code. This code can be used to Identify the species of the sample or to synthesize new DNA.
DNA sequencing is a technique to determine the order of the four bases — adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine — in a strand of DNA. This nucleotide order is the main information storaged in the DNA molecule.
In the 70s and 80s DNA had to be sequenced by hand, making it a time and cost consuming process. In 1986 Leroy Hood's laboratory at the California Institute of Technology and Smith announced the first semi-automated sequencing machine. In the Jurassic Park novel Bob Morris says that InGen had bought 24 of these Hood sequencers.
The DNA sequencing technique was rapidly improved in the 21st century. Multiple fully automated sequencing methods exist today (see Wikipedia for more information).
Jurassic Park media Edit
In the Jurassic Park novel John Hammond used 24 Hamachi-Hood automatic DNA sequencers to sequence the dinosaur DNA. The sequencers are shown to the endorsement team by Henry Wu. Against the wall of a chilled room there is a row of waist-high stainless-steel boxes, which are the sequencers. The sequencers are run by two Cray X-MP supercomputers. InGen fully sequenced the genomes of 15 different dinosaur species in three years with a budget of $30 million.
It was in the last days of genetic recovery, and at this point, nothing was certain. Was the DNA there? And then, it opened up. The code read true. The barrier of time for an instant... opened. Nedry and I stared into the monitor, straight back through 65 thousand centuries.
In Jurassic Park: Builder DNA from amber and ice can be sequenced at the Research Center. The costs for the sequencing rise as you level up. For each sequencing attempt three parts of a DNA stand have to appear in a glass tube. When this have been performed successfully for 10 time, the dinosaur genome is fully sequenced.
Cost and time Edit
In the mid 90s, when the Jurassic Park films were made and critics wrote their responses, not one bird or reptile species was fully sequenced. Scientists at universities and research centres from the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, France, Germany and Spain had been working since 1990 to sequence the human genome.
The Human Genome Project is described in the Jurassic Park novel as 'an enormous undertaking, as big as the Manhattan Project, which made the atomic bomb.' It 'would take ten years of coordinated effort, involving laboratories around the world.' The Human Genome Project was finally finished in 2003. It had taken 13 years and had cost roughly $3 billion (publicly funded). This is why Dennis Nedry, at first, couldn't believe that a private company like InGen had the resources to sequence complete genomes.
In this period a scientist wrote in the NewYork Times that the film was "wildly implausible" and a "gross overstatement of capabilities of DNA technology."
Dr. Skolnick wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association that it was not possible to sequence "more than 3.5 percent of the genome" of one individual per year. Therefore this reviewer concluded that it is ridiculous to imagine that 15 different dinosaur species could have their genomes sequenced in three years for just $30 million (as claimed in the novel).
Only a few years later it became clear that whole genome sequencing doesn't have to be as expensive as the Human Genome Project. In 1998 the American researcher Craig Venter, owner of Celera Genomics, started his own human genome project. Celera used a technique called whole genome shotgun sequencing. This technique had existed for a long time, but was only used to sequence very small bacterial genomes. Celera had fully sequenced the human genome in 2001 (after only 3 years) and had cost only $300 million. If InGen had used the same strategy in the late 80s as Celera Genomics, their sequencing projects would have been less expensive and less time-consuming than the Human Genome Project.
Furthermore, the cost to sequence a full genome would drop enormously in the 21st century. Lee M. Silver, Professor of molecular biology and public policy at Princeton University, wrote in 2006:
Now, just 15 years after the publication of Crichton's novel, it is clear that molecular biologists had underestimated the potential of their own technology. With (...) new biotechnologies, the entire genome of an individual animal or human being can be deciphered in less than a week for much less than $1 million, and most biotechnologists are now confident that over the next decade the cost can be reduced to a few thousands dollars.
In 2012 Oxford Nanopore built a device, called MinION, with a size of a USB-stick (and a USB gate) that could sequence a human genome in 2 hours for $1000.
- ↑ Jurassic Park (novel), The Tour, page 106.
- ↑ Brown M.W. (1993). In New Spielberg Film a Dim View of Science, NewYork Times (May 11, 1993), CI.
- ↑ Skolnick A. (1993). Jurassic Park, Journal of the American Medical Association, Volume 270, 1252-1253.
- ↑ Silver L.M. (2006). Challenging Nature: The Clash of Science and Spirituality at the New Frontiers of Life, page 310.
- ↑ Graham-Rowe D. (2012). USB stick can sequence DNA in seconds, NewScientist, Issue 2853. Link.