Radiation tolerance of nanopore sequencing technology for life detection on Mars and Europa
29th March 2019 - Scientific Reports
The search for life beyond Earth is a key motivator in space exploration. Informational polymers, like DNA and RNA, are key biosignatures for life as we know it. The MinION is a miniature DNA sequencer based on versatile nanopore technology that could be implemented on future planetary missions. A critical unanswered question is whether the MinION and its protein-based nanopores can withstand increased radiation exposure outside Earth’s shielding magnetic field. We evaluated the effects of ionizing radiation on the MinION platform – including flow cells, reagents, and hardware – and discovered limited performance loss when exposed to ionizing doses comparable to a mission to Mars. Targets with harsher radiation environments, like Europa, would require improved radiation resistance via additional shielding or design refinements.