Decoding extinct genomes now possible, says geneticist
December 27, 2005
Hendrik Poinar, a molecular evolutionary geneticist in the department of anthropology and pathology at McMaster University, says his study involves the vital nuclear DNA within a Mammoth rather than the lesser mitochondria, on which the Nature study is based.
Photo credit: D. Poinar
The discovery occurred when Poinar extracted DNA from a well-preserved Mammoth specimen found in the Siberian permafrost, and sent it to his research colleagues at Penn State, who had just taken possession of the latest technology in genome sequencing. Within hours, his colleagues reported that the machine had sequenced 30 million base pairs, about one percent of the entire Mammoth genome. At this rate, it will take a year to map the entire genome, says Poinar. Funding is currently being sought for the completion of this project.
Photo credit: A. Tikhonov
Woolly mammoths, which have become symbols of the Ice Age, died out 10,000 years ago.
"Naturally there are ethical issues that come with a discovery of this magnitude, and McMaster is already planning the first conference devoted to the ethics of bringing extinct organisms back to life," said Mamdouh Shoukri, vice-president research and international affairs. "We have an obligation as scientists to explore and maintain the responsible use of research."
The study, published last week in Science, was funded by McMaster University, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and Penn State University.
McMaster University is a world-renowned, research-intensive university. It is one of only four Canadian universities to be listed on the Top 100 universities in the world. McMaster University has a student population of more than 23,000, and an alumni population of more than 115,000 in 128 countries.
Publish A Letter on SitNews Read Letters/Opinions
Submit A Letter to the Editor