You may have heard of genomes being sequenced. For instance, the human genome was completed in 2003, after a many-year, international effort. But what does it mean to sequence a genome, or even a small fragment of DNA?
DNA sequencing is the process of determining the sequence of nucleotide bases (As, Ts, Cs, and Gs) in a piece of DNA. Today, with the right equipment and materials, sequencing a short piece of DNA is relatively straightforward.
Sequencing an entire genome (all of an organism’s DNA) remains a complex task. It requires breaking the DNA of the genome into many smaller pieces, sequencing the pieces, and assembling the sequences into a single long "consensus." However, thanks to new methods that have been developed over the past two decades, genome sequencing is now much faster and less expensive than it was during the Human Genome Project.
In this article, we’ll take a look at methods used for DNA sequencing. We'll focus on one well-established method, Sanger sequencing, but we'll also discuss new ("next-generation") methods that have reduced the cost and accelerated the speed of large-scale sequencing.