Will It Sequence: Bruce!

He's fifteen weeks old, he chews on everything, and he's chock full of genes...
13 September 2019

Interview with 

Ursula Arndt, Illumina


Bruce the black lab puppy


Dogs are hugely diverse. They can be as big as great danes or as small as chihuahuas. Their fur can be brown, white, or even dark blue, and they can be anywhere on the spectrum of short-haired to massive fluffball. What's going on inside their cells that gives them such a range of shapes and sizes? We went to gene sequencing company Illumina to find out. In this first edition of Will It Sequence, we're trying to decode the genome of Bruce the black lab puppy. 

Ursula - Hello this is Ursula Arndt, I’m a scientist at Illumina. And what's your name?

Amelia -  I’m Amelia and I own Bruce, the young puppy we’ve got here.

Ursula - Excellent, so Bruce… obviously an incredibly adorable black Labrador puppy. We’re going to take DNA from the inside of its mouth. And what we have is a swab. So we’re going to see if we can get him to keep it in his mouth and we’re going to rub it around his cheek for a couple of minutes.

Amelia - What are you picking up from inside of the mouth with that swab?

Ursula -  Mostly saliva, but what we should be getting is a lot of dog cells as well. And what we're hoping for actually, that we’re not just getting dog, but we might be getting some of the bacteria that might be in his mouth as well.

Amelia - And what will you do with those?

Ursula - Sequence them on one of our sequencers, and then we can tell you a lot more about Bruce.

Amelia - Bruce!

Ursula - Bruce! Nom nom nom. So right now I'm trying to swab the inside of his cheek and not just his teeth, without him eating the entire tube. And right now he’s really trying to chew on my hand as well. Okay, I think we’re good Bruce. So I’ve now turned the swab around, and so the piece that looks like a Q-tip is now inside of the liquid, and that’s gonna take the DNA from the swab and hopefully preserve it.

Amelia - And what happens next?

Ursula - So tomorrow morning we’re gonna take this liquid that contains his cells. We’re gonna break up the cell, and we’re gonna keep the DNA and throw away everything that's protein or that’s cell parts, cell walls, everything that's not DNA. We’re gonna sequence all of his genome and then we’re gonna, actually, our biostaticians are going to look at how much wolf is in the dog, I think that's one of our main questions. Then we see what else we can find.

Amelia - How big is the DNA code of a dog?

Ursula - I think it's essentially the same size as human, almost.

Amelia - How long will it take to sequence the DNA of him?

Ursula - So we plan to do the DNA extraction, and then the library - we call it library prep, that makes the DNA ready for sequencing - we’re gonna take just under a day, and then the sequencing is going to take a day and a half. OK, so we’re gonna take a couple of hair samples now. I know you’re really... OK. OK, so I’m trying to get the dog to not wiggle, because I don’t want to cut him while he's moving. But I’m gonna take some hair just from the back of his neck. Can you hold on to your dog for me? Yeah, that should be plenty of hair here. That should be more than enough dog in this tube. Thank you so much Bruce!

Amelia - Bruce? Bruce? Biscuit?


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