Patients at a Sheffield hospital are to benefit from more advanced treatments thanks to a new £500,000 machine.
Sheffield Children’s Hospital has received a donation from Yorkshire Cancer Research to purchase a gene-sequencing machine – which can map a patient’s complete genetic code in less than a fortnight.
Darren Grafham, the hospital trust’s head of laboratory services for genetics, said the state-of-the-art machine allows scientists to detect tiny changes in cells and spot specific signs of cancer.
He said: “Previously finding the correct gene was like looking for a needle in a haystack.
“This machine will move us from being able to scan for small panels, like analysing a word on a page of text, to scanning books’ worth of genes.
“Technology is moving so fast and is unlocking new capabilities for us.”
The machine – an Illumina Hi-Seq 2500 – follows a previous donation from the Children’s Hospital Charity, which first introduced ‘next generation’ gene sequencing to Sheffield.
Mr Grafham said: “It will help to establish us as the next generation sequencing centre for Yorkshire.”
Prof James Catto, from Sheffield University, said: “The gene scanner is the most advanced available.
“The machine will allow us to dramatically cut the time taken to sequence an individual’s entire genome, from two years to just two weeks.
“This will enable us to discover the molecular cause of many diseases, which in time will translate to clinical uses.
“Increasingly, we are realising that a person’s risk of many diseases – such as cancer, heart disease or arthritis – could be determined when young, so this information will let medics take a more individualised approach to a person’s life-long health care.”