DNA Sequencer Designed To Detect Alien Life Onboard ISS (International Space Station)

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Do you know that DNA Sequencer was delivered by SpaceX Dragon to ISS and it’s capable of testing for extraterrestrial specimens? It called a MinION, and it’s an impressively compact device weighing in at just 0.27 pounds. According to NASA, the DNA Sequencer is a tiny device which can “identify microbes, diagnose diseases and understand crew member health, and potentially help detect DNA-based life elsewhere in the solar system.”

Now all we need are aliens to test it on; however the MinION has other practical applications while waiting to make what would be called “the find of the century.”

DNA & RNA 

One of the big features is that it can  take DNA from any organism and be sequenced on site and therefore is an invaluable tool that will assist any scientific investigation on the ISS. It can also analyze RNA from any organism and convert it to DNA where it can be sequenced, which enables gene expression studies. According to NASA it works “by passing DNA strands through nanopores, and as the DNA passes through the pore, the device measures changes in current that are diagnostic of the sequence of the DNA passing through it.”

How MinION Works

And that means that MinION, unlike other DNA sequencers, could even be capable of both detecting and analyzing alien life forms. It gives the  ISS crew members to analyze all kinds of samples and that includes even alien ones on the ISS. Which means that there is now waiting to  send the samples back to Earth to be tested in a lab.

MinION will also serve essential functions in keeping the ISS crew healthy by testing the craft’s environment and water supply for pathogens, and other microorganisms – before they overwhelm the crew.

Space Applications

As NASA describes it:
Crew members on the ISS frequently participate in DNA testing, but these tests require collecting samples and sending them back to Earth to be analyzed. This investigation studies a miniature sequencer that may work in space. The sequencer could greatly improve scientific research on the ISS through advancements in microbe identification, disease diagnostics, and collection of real-time genomic data. Spaceflight-compatible DNA sequencing technology can also be integrated into astrobiology-based exploration missions. 

The objectives of Biomolecule Sequencer are to (1) provide proof-of-concept for the functionality and (2) evaluate crew operability of a DNA sequencer in the space environment. The immediate capabilities from the sequencer are, but are not limited to, in-flight microbial identification for crew and vehicle health assessments; monitoring changes at the DNA level in astronauts and microbes; and analyzing DNA-based life on other worlds if present. Molecular biology is a branch of biology aimed at understanding the molecular basis of biological activity at the level of DNA, RNA, and proteins. One of the most powerful applications of molecular biology techniques is in the identification of organisms; identification can be achieved using a variety of methods, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.
 
Despite the importance of microbial identification, there is currently no way to perform this task aboard the ISS, thus requiring samples to be returned to Earth for analysis. However, this is an area of priority and there are several molecular biology-capable devices have been or are currently being tested aboard the ISS . 
Source: NASA