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Chase, Mark W. Molecular Systematics Section, Jodrell Laboratory, Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, Surrey, United Kingdom.
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In the original science fiction Star Trek series on television in the 1960s, the crew of the starship Enterprise used a handy little device called a “tricorder” to remotely detect life-forms and provide the crew with information about the identity of the organism and if it was dangerous. As is often the case, what was science fiction can several decades later become reality. Although a device such as a tricorder is not yet a reality, it is within reach, and many scientists around the world are working hard to make genetic (DNA) identification via DNA barcodes a reality. Their goal is to produce a handheld device that is the size of a mobile phone that will process DNA and produce the sequence of a small region (or regions, depending on the type of organism; the genetic “barcode”) that can be matched to a database (remotely accessed) so that the identity of the organism of interest can be determined. Once a determination has been made and fed back to the device, other information can be downloaded as well, such as images of the organism and any other information that the increasing numerous online databases can provide.
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