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  1. 1

    The HeliScope is the first commercial machine to sequence a single piece of DNA rather than one copied many times.
  2. 2

    Each “flow cell” has 25 channels, each capable of holding 16 million strands of DNA for sequencing. A coating on the surface of the cell allows it to be washed clean between reactions.
  3. 3

    To start the sequencing process, a scientist uses a multitip pipette to inject DNA samples into the flow cell.
  4. 4

    The flow cell is then loaded into the HeliScope, which contains a complex optical system and four digital cameras. A granite slab, seen as a horizontal stripe across the top of the photo, prevents the instrument from vibrating.
  5. 5

    DNA bases–A, C, T, and G–and DNA polymerase, the enzyme that catalyzes the sequencing reaction, are fed to the flow cell through a complex fluidics system at precisely timed intervals.
  6. 6

    A low-power laser illuminates the sequencing reactions, which are recorded by the digital cameras.
  7. 7

    The data recorded by the cameras is transferred to an accompanying processing center, which converts the images into strings of DNA letters. A specialized algorithm assembles the overlapping fragments into a longer sequence of DNA.

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