Friday, May 07, 2010

Neaderthal Genome Sequenced

The Neanderthal genome has been sequenced, using high-throughput pyrosequencing technology, by a consortium largely based at the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany.

They conclude from their analysis that Neanderthal and human populations diverged around 270,000 and 440,000 years ago, depending what age one accepts for the chimpanzee-human split. Also, they found that Neanderthals are closer to non-African (i.e. Eurasian) humans than Africans, suggesting that gene flow from Neanderthals to Eurasian humans occurred before the divergence of the Eurasian populations of humans.

The methods which they use to reduce contamination from non-Neanderthal DNA (human DNA which might be mistaken for Neanderthal, and bacterial which is in great abundance) are also very interesting, as is how they dealt with the problem of deamination of C nucleotides in ancient DNA.

What made me raise an eyebrow, though, is how Roche, the company which manufactures the 454 sequencing platform used in this project, sponsored the publicity campaign for this project. One would like to think that in science, the results which receive the most publicity are those which have the most scientific merit, but it may not always be so. In this case the interest of the subject matter is fairly obvious, but one needs to be wary of special interests and commercial agendas.

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