The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, in collaboration with 454 Life Sciences Corporation, in Branford, Connecticut, today announce a plan to have a first draft of the Homo neanderthalensis genome within two years.
Come on guys. Some day some group is going to use human eggs to put neanderthal DNA made with DNA synthesis machines to create neanderthal babies. Your work is laying the foundations. We should consider what will be the consequencs. Will the Neanderthal facilty for speech be good enough for them to sing? I want to hear neanderthals cover the Kinks classic "I'm an ape man, I'm an ape ape man, I'm an ape man. I'm a king kong man, I'm a voodoo man, I'm an ape man".
Neanderthals might not make nice semi-people. Would they be smart enough and capable of being civilized enough to qualify for human rights? One of the biggest debates of the 21st century (at least until the robots take over) is going to be on the question of which attributes must an intelligence possess to be eligible for rights and even to be eligible for not immediately getting destroyed or at least imprisoned. But that debate hasn't started in earnest yet because all the politically correct liberals are still denying that genetics plays a big role in creating cognitive characteristics that determine why human societies take the forms we see.
Advances in sequencing technology made by 454 Life Sciences makes the sequencing attempt possible. (same press release here as PDF)
"The Max Planck Institute and 454 Life Sciences are working together to sequence the Neandertal genome. Our expertise with ancient DNA and the Neandertal, coupled with 454 Sequencing, a next generation sequencing technology with unparalleled throughput, makes this an ideal collaboration," explained Svante Paabo, Ph.D., Director of the Department of Evolutionary Anthropology at the Max Planck Institute. "The advent of 454 Sequencing has enabled us to move forward with a project that was previously thought to be impossible."
Neandertal inhabited Europe and the Near East until about 30,000 years ago then disappeared after his successor, Homo sapiens, migrated to Europe. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the discovery of the first Neandertal fossil in Germany's Neander Valley near Dusseldorf. Dr. Paabo was the first to sequence DNA from a Neandertal fossil in 1997 while at the University of Munich.
That these scientists can get DNA fragments good enough to be worth trying to sequence is the amazing part of it.
Extracting, identifying and sequencing ancient DNA from fossils is a technically challenging task. When an organism dies, its tissues are overrun by bacteria and fungi. Much of the DNA is simply destroyed, and the small amount remaining is broken into short pieces and chemically modified during the long period of fossil formation. This means that when scientists mine tiny samples of ancient bones for DNA, much of the DNA obtained is actually from contaminants such as bacteria, fungi and even scientists who have previously handled the bones.
Over the last twenty years, Dr. Paabo's research group has developed methods for demonstrating the authenticity of ancient DNA results, as well as technical solutions to the problems of working with short, chemically-modified DNA fragments. Together with 454 Life Sciences, they will now combine these methods with high-throughput DNA sequencing. By enabling a method of sequencing that is more comprehensive and less expensive than conventional sequencing methods, 454 Sequencing is well suited for such a project.
"Unlike the human genome project, Neandertal samples are extremely scarce and have been contaminated with microbial DNA over tens of thousands of years. Therefore, this project is only possible with 454 Sequencing technology," said Michael Egholm, Ph.D., Vice President, Molecular Biology, 454 Life Sciences.
Due to such sample contamination, the task of sequencing the Neandertal genome is much more extensive than the task of sequencing the human genome. 454 Life Sciences' Genome Sequencer 20 System makes such an endeavor feasible by allowing approximately a quarter of a million single DNA strands from small amounts of bone to be sequenced in only about five hours by a single machine. The DNA sequences determined by the Genome Sequencer 20 System are 100-200 base pairs in length, which coincides neatly with the length of ancient DNA fragments.
Over the next two years, the Neandertal sequencing team will reconstruct a draft of the 3 billion bases that made up the genome of Neandertals. For their work, they will use samples from several Neandertal individuals, including the type of specimen found in 1856 in Neander Valley and a particularly well-preserved Neandertal from Croatia. The Max Planck Society's decision to fund the project is based on an analysis of approximately one million base pairs of nuclear Neandertal DNA from a 45,000-year-old Croatian fossil, sequenced by 454 Life Sciences.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2006 July 23 10:33 PM Trends, Human Evolution|