One of the most exciting things about next-generation sequencing (NGS) is what researchers can do with the vast amounts of data that they collect. Recently, Yang, et al published a paper in Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) that really highlights the systems biology potential of NGS. In this paper, the researchers wanted to examine the gene expression changes that occur when tissue culture cells are infected with a virus. The researchers simultaneously looked at changes in both the vaccinia virus transcriptome and host cell (HeLa cells) transcriptome. Using the SOLiD™ System, the researchers determined that four hours after the HeLa cells were infected with the vaccinia virus, 50% of all transcribed genes were of viral origin.  There was also a 50% decrease in the transcription levels for cellular genes.

The precision required of this research demands massive data generation, and SOLiD delivered, generating 20 million aligned reads for each time point during the experiment.

Many infectious agents are very difficult to culture, making diagnosis of disease challenging.  This paper is the first step on the road to techniques that will allow clinicians to simultaneously analyze a patient's genome transcription as well as an infectious agent, allowing for more precise diagnoses and faster treatments.