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Deciphering the human genome to prevent leukemia

A year after setting up, the CNAG (National Centre for Genome Analysis) is the second most important DNA centre in Europe. It is located in Scientific Park of Barcelona and each day processes 100 Gigabytes of information, stored a 1.2 Petabyte supercomputer.


09 February 2011 10:10 PM


ACN / Aleix Moldes

Barcelona (ACN) .- On April 24, 2003, after 13 years of intense research, scientists from the Human Genome Project completed the sequence of DNA. The project involved thousands of people and institutions from all around the world, hundreds of sequencing machines and the total expenditure rose to over 3,000 million dollars. Today in Barcelona, you can do the exact same thing, but in 24 hours, with just one machine, and for a cost of $ 10,000. The National Centre for Genome Analysis (CNAG) is one of the most important centres for molecular research in Europe. Just over a year ago, the centre was created in the Scientific Park of Barcelona and during that short time, it has already sequenced hundreds of different genomes.

Laboratory scientists prepared samples of DNA that are subsequently processed by fifteen genomic analyzers from the CNAG. \u201CWe are the second largest centre in Europe that operates in this field\u201D, explains Ivo Glynne Gut, the director of the centre and a great expert in genetics. Each machine is worth between 300,000 and 500,000 euros. Although the centre is only one year old, new models have been incorporated to adapt to rapid changes in the industry.

The main project of the CNAG is the sequencing of cancer cells of individuals to compare them with those that are not affected by the disease. \u201CThe aim is to achieve a more accurate diagnosis of chronic lymphocytic leukemia to find appropriate treatments\u201D, says Gut. In the future, research will be carried out, in other places and not just the Scientific Park of Barcelona to develop therapies to prevent cancer development. The project is part of an international program coordinated by the International Cancer Genome Consortium, in order to create a complete catalogue of all the alterations of the genome of 50 different types of tumours.

Thanks to powerful microscopes with high definition that each machine have, each day 100 Gigabases of information is processed and stored in a supercomputer with a capacity of 1.2 Petabytes (approximately 2,000 times the capacity of a normal computer). The capacity of the centre has attracted many researchers that are working on other projects and even farmers interested in improving crops' genome treatment. No matter what, whether it is a person or a melon, the technology is the same.

\u201CCatalonia has made a significant leap in research\u201D

\u201CThe investment in research over the last 10 years in Catalonia shows that the country has taken a very important step\u201D, that is what the director of the CNAG says. According to Gut, \u201Chigh technology\u201D which Barcelona has and \u201Cgood\u201D students create \u201Cperfect conditions\u201D to create a \u201Cstarting point\u201D. The economic crisis will be an enemy that will have to be beaten. The government cutbacks threatened some research projects. For Gut, research is not the \u201Cright place\u201D to save money, \u201Cif we calculate the cost of disease, many people probably would pay more to improve the quality of life\u201D, he says.

The CNAG opened in September 2009, although its activity did not begin at full capacity until February 2010. It is funded equally by the Catalan Government (15 million) and the Spanish Government for the period 2009-2012.


  • Deciphering the human genome to prevent leukemia (by A. Moldes)

  • Deciphering the human genome to prevent leukemia (by A. Moldes)