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Instruments err. This tool identifies the mistakes.

Memphis, Tennessee, January 25, 2021

Three researchers in masks standing around a silver, circular machine.

(Clockwise, from bottom left) Xiaotu Ma, PhD, of Computational Biology; Yu Sun, bioinformatics analyst, Immunology; and Pandurang Kolekar, bioinformatics research scientist, Computational Biology, helped develop a free a mathematical tool for researchers to find instrument-caused errors.

Instruments, even expensive, high-tech ones like DNA sequencing machines, aren’t perfect.

Researchers use sequencers to decode the chemical bases that make up DNA, the blueprint of life. The devices play a key role in cancer research, including diagnosis and treatment.

Sequencers can also introduce errors.

St. Jude scientists have created a mathematical tool to find instrument-caused errors. They named the tool SequencErr and offered it for free to academic researchers worldwide.

The tool may help a range of people—from cancer patients and cancer center staff to companies that manufacture sequencers or make products ranging from medicine to beer. Brewers may benefit because rare strains of yeast carry mutations that affect fermentation and taste.

The creators hope SequencErr will soon help doctors find cancer cells that evade treatment. “The tool will help us measure remaining cancer cells and determine if more therapy is needed to prevent relapse,” said Xiaotu Ma, PhD, of Computational Biology.

 A report on this research appeared in Genome Biology.

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