July 23, 2006
Neanderthal Genome Sequenced In 2 Years?

But they make no mention of using the sequence information to resurrect the species.

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.

See here for more information.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2006 July 23 10:33 PM  Trends, Human Evolution


Comments
Mike Anderson said at July 24, 2006 2:59 AM:

Neanderthals might not make nice semi-people. Would they be smart enough and capable of being civilized enough to qualify for human rights?

Of course, they could also turn out to be smarter than us, which might be more of a problem...

Factory said at July 24, 2006 5:37 AM:

Hmm neanderthals might even have a way of thinking and personalities which are 'alien' to us. Who knows?

Dave said at July 24, 2006 3:39 PM:

Think of the affirmative action they are going to want after we homosapiens get all the blame for their demise. (its easy to laugh now, but....)

James Bowery said at July 24, 2006 7:55 PM:

Maybe now they can do degree of relatedness testing on the Kennewick Man and I can be awarded custody of his remains.

I did put in a formal demand that I be given his remains because I was the most closely related of any claimant to come forward at the time the remains were under NAGPRA dispute. The Richland newspaper published a story by a snippy little tart wherein she claimed that I claimed to be more closely related than any other human alive -- which was of course her way of being cute. Newspapers like to hire snippyp little tarts that misreport things if they can be cute -- its called "professional ethics".

Lono said at July 26, 2006 11:21 AM:

Hmm...

I honestly think we will have a lot more issues with determing the rights of hybrids or "uplifited" animals than we will if we create a Neanderthal child.

I think it would be clear that they would be treated with rights - or at least the dignity we would give a severely disabled Human (probably regardless of the intellect they might exhibit).

Frankly I cannot imagine they would have nearly enough DNA to do this without it being a human hybrid - or really a human with a few genetically engineered Neanderthal traits.

I think we will all have to face the fact that our ethicial safeguards are not going to keep pace with our bio-technological prowess and serious and horrific mistakes will be made.

How we deal with those mistakes will be the real challenge of the next century.

Peter Nielsen said at August 2, 2006 10:57 PM:

Paleo-archeological evidence that homo sapiens originated in Africa has been strongly corroborated by human mitochondrial DNA mtDNA)/Y-chromosome phylogeography. This thus confirmed "Out of Africa" thesis corroborates my ebook's Meta-Geology thesis via strong correlations shown at www.nodrift.com/vol_5/5.1.pdf and this corroboration is mutual.

The correlations of my ebook's paper 5.1 Figs 1 & 2 lead to explanations of the "Out of Africa" hypothesis, how and why African descendents of homo erectus were more successful than Asian descendents and so on, with an important corollary of particular interest to humanists, new conventions associated with sexual selection being central to humanistic discourse:

Sexual selection may have been more important than natural selection in evolution of homo sapiens, in contrast to evolution of homo erectus, where natural selection may have been more important than sexual selection.

The correlations: Earth's Impact Hemisphere (IH), antipodal Africa (AA), & intermediate region (IR) correlate with the New World/Oceania, Original World, & Old World, respectively, and the distribution of so-called Yellow, Black, & White coarse race categories respectively, before an ~500 year period of world colonisation which has been undoing these probably causal associations.

Not Important said at April 6, 2009 5:40 PM:

What is called "Neanderthal" is the product of cross breeding a human with a primate, moreover, -many- cross breeds occurred in the beginning. These corrupt creatures were those who the Lord of all creation did away with in the flood, whereas "the aliens" -those angels kicked out of heaven made their attempt to transform earthly creatures by making them "born from above", but unto their destruction, in direct contrast to the mission of Jesus who said we must be born from above or we will not enter into incorruption, or eternity, in that perfection.

And the delusion told to Eve in the beginning, that they would become "like gods" did occur, as many primitive religions evidence the worship of composite creatures.

Science has only scratched the surface of understanding the fossil record, rather, what is labelled "dinosaurs" were composite creatures derived from crossbreeding, by the knowledge of those angels turned devils. Yes, orchestrated by an "alien" force; those fallen angels did play god to make their own creation, and those creatures are the focus of evolution in the search of "missing links", in ignorance.

Concerning this, the Christian Church has failed it's mission to proclaim the Truth to all the earth, choosing the vain tradition of edification and self-glorification instead. Nevertheless, what the Serpent said in the beginning came true that they would think themselves to be as gods.

Do not be ignorant; composite creatures will happen a second time as Jesus said "As it was in the beginning, so shall it be in the end."

Only a spritual ignoramous could not tell the contrast of spirits at work in this work of altering the Lord's creation.

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