Mercyhurst acquires DNA sequencer

Mercyhurst University recently received a DNA sequencing machine, a powerful device that is one of its kind in the Erie area.

This was the result of two grants for advancement of scientific research at Mercyhurst University. One was through Alden Trust and the other was a collaboration with Erie Research Institute.

“I think it is a huge step forward for Mercyhurst, a small private liberal arts university, to have technology that rivals that at many top tier universities,” said Assistant Professor of Biochemistry Amy Parente, Ph.D.

The machine is one of its kind in terms of its ability to sequence DNA.

According to Chair of the Biology Department Steve Mauro, this machine can sequence the DNA of any organism on the planet within a day. Other machines, if they could sequence the DNA at all, could take up to a year to do the same work.

Students will be able to see how this machine works and use it for themselves in the lab.

“For students, such as myself, being able to have experience on a sequencer will really work in our favor,” said senior Drew Spacht. “This sequencer is just one more thing students can add to their CV’s when they graduate.”

Mauro agrees, citing the machine as a great learning platform for students.

The machine is not just important for students, though.

Parente said that in her work only a few DNA molecules will have a sequence that allows them to perform the task that she and other researchers are interested in their work.

Therefore, an inherent challenge for Parente is finding the DNA sequence for each molecule.

“Previous technology required us to examine molecules one at a time, which is not very expensive each time it is performed, but is fairly labor intensive and can become cost–prohibitive if you need a lot of information,” said Parente. “By using the MiSeq next generation sequencer [the DNA sequencer], we will be able to obtain sequence information from up to 15 million DNA molecules in one single reaction.”

According to Parente, the machine is not only important as a method for students to learn on the newest and best equipment, it is also a tool to forge relationships with faculty outside of Mercyhurst, who will be able to take advantage of this machine’s capability.