Search for Extra-Terrestrial Genomes (SETG)

Steve Boxall

The widespread synthesis of common organic building blocks in space could have biased life beyond Earth towards chemical similarities to life as we know it. Meteoritic exchange might also have produced shared ancestry, most plausible for Earth and Mars. We are building an instrument to target nucleic acids (DNA), called the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Genomes (SETG). Our approach integrates automated extraction and sequencing of DNA using the first commercially available nanopore device, the Oxford Nanopore Technologies MinION.

A NASA team tested an earlier version of this technology during parabolic flight and on the international space station. Here we tested the latest iteration, with updated chemistry, flow cells, and software, in combination with high resolution acceleration and vibration measurement. Our goals are to 1) Quantify the impact of g-level and vibration on sequencing, and 2) perform sequencing during simulated Mars gravity for the first time.

This is a project from the MIT Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, headed by Maria Zuber.

Team Members:

Maria T. Zuber, Principal Investigator

Christopher E. Carr, Science Principal Investigator

Noelle C. Bryan

Kendall Saboda

Srinivasa Aditya Bhattaru

Gary Ruvkun, Institutional Principal Investigator, MGH

Read the research paper:  "Acceleration Profiles and Processing Methods for Parabolic Flight," December 2017.

Research Topics
#genetics #space #zero gravity