New DNA Sequencer in Use


With the purchase of a new DNA sequencer, NMU biology students are being trained on the same equipment used at major genome centers and throughout the biotechnology industry. Alec Lindsay (Biology, pictured right) is shown explaining the equipment to students Jonelle Thompson and Andy Moriarty.


“This is a great advancement,” said Neil Cumberlidge (Biology). “It gives results in two hours. Students can load samples and at the end of a three-hour lab they can have data in an electronic format that can be shared through their laptops. It allows us to get results faster and with greater accuracy. … We had a very old sequencer that had been donated to the department, but it was obsolete. It required 48 hours to set up and run, so we couldn’t use it in classes or labs. There is only one company that makes DNA sequencers and it no longer services the older model, so that was an added incentive to invest in the new version.”


Cumberlidge uses the $80,000 apparatus to develop evolutionary trees of Madagascar crabs – a project he is working on in collaboration with the Field Museum in Chicago.


Lindsay is using the sequencer to analyze the effects of inbreeding on loon populations – work that falls in the disciplines of conservation genetics or molecular ecology.


“We are beginning to look at the genome-moderated effects of mercury, which is another issue impacting loons,” Lindsay said. “It seems that different individual loons respond differently to mercury exposure, and this may be genotype-dependent. It could be used to help inform resource managers about the susceptibility of different loon populations to mercury contamination.”

DNA is composed of four chemicals bases – abbreviated A, T, C and G – that are repeated millions or billions of times throughout a genome. The human genome, which was recently sequenced by the U.S. Department of Energy Human Genome Program, has 3 billion pairs of bases. According to the USDOE, mapping the order of these bases is important because the sequence "underlies all of life’s diversity, even dictating whether an organism is human or another species such as yeast, rice, or fruit fly – all of which have their own genomes. Because all organisms are related through similarities in DNA sequences, insights gained from non-human genomes often lead to new knowledge about human biology.”

A Sept. 7 Boston Globe article reported that researchers at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Mass., unveiled the map of the dog genome this summer. They sequenced the genes of a female boxer named Tasha. About the same length as the human genome, the canine's DNA adds to the growing library of organisms that have been sequenced. The dog is the fourth mammal, preceded by the human, mouse and rat.


Mapping DNA sequences was the first challenge. Deriving meaningful knowledge from these scientific achievements will define biological research through the coming decades. With a new DNA sequencer, NMU students will be better prepared for careers in the fast-paced biotechnology industry.



1401 Presque Isle Ave | Marquette, MI 49855 | 1-800-682-9797
Technical questions? E-mail
Admissions questions? E-mail

©1999-2004 by the Board of Trustees of Northern Michigan University

Page created by: NMU Webteam

Northern Michigan University is an AA/EO Institution.

NMU logo

Updated: September 9, 2004