Scientists Plan to Rebuild Neanderthal Genome

By | July 22, 2006

Scientists Plan to Rebuild Neanderthal Genome

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Leipzig, Germany, plan to reconstruct the genome of Neanderthals, the archaic human species that occupied Europe from 300,000 years ago until 30,000 years ago until being displaced by modern humans. The genome will initially be reconstructed using DNA extracted from Neanderthal bones that are 45,000 years old, which were found in Croatia, though bones from other sites may be analyzed later.

The project is a collaboration between Dr. Svante Paabo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and 454 Life Sciences, a Connecticut company that has developed a new method of sequencing, or decoding, DNA. The sequencing of Neanderthal DNA, long a forlorn hope, suddenly seems possible because of a combination of analytic work on ancient DNA by Dr. Paabo and a new kind of DNA sequencing machine developed by 454 Life Sciences.

Because the genome must be kept in constant repair and starts to break up immediately after the death of the cell, the DNA in Neanderthal bones exists in tiny fragments 100 or so units in length. As it happens, this is just the length that works best with the 454 machine, which is also able to decode vast amounts of DNA at low cost. Read more at nytimes.com

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