We asked IBM for its smartest new innovation. This is what they gave us.
The problem: Learning to sequence DNA fast and cheap might be the most important challenge in health technology. Understanding each patient's full genetic sequencing would give doctors X-Ray vision into their patients' unique makeup and future diseases. There's one big catch. Gene sequencing costs tens of thousands of dollars.
The idea: IBM wants to build a "DNA Transistor" that would be the world's cheapest genetic reader. Scientists refer to the idea as the "$1,000 genome." But IBM says they might be able to get the cost of sequencing down to $100.
Remember the View-Master
you played with as a kid? That red binocular-shaped device that let you
click-click-click through 3D images? Well, this would work sort of like
a DNA View-Master on the smallest conceivable level. Scientists drill a nano-sized hole -- 3,000 times slimmer than a human hair -- through a silicon computer chip and thread a DNA
strands through it. "As the molecule is passed through the nanopore, it is ratcheted one unit
of DNA at a time," IBM said. Click, click, click, and the long sequence of DNA would be sequenced.