Mammoth progress

Scientists have successfully sequenced a reasonably complete genome from an extinct animal for the first time, in this case, a woolly mammoth:

The team sequenced the mammoth’s nuclear genome using DNA extracted from the hairs of a mammoth mummy that had been buried in the Siberian permafrost for 20,000 years and a second mammoth mummy that is at least 60,000-years-old.

By using hair, the scientists avoided problems that have bedeviled the sequencing of ancient DNA from bones because DNA from bacteria and fungi, which always are associated with ancient DNA, can more easily be removed from hair than from bones.

Another advantage of using hair is that less damage occurs to ancient DNA in hair because the hair shaft encases the remnant DNA like a biological plastic, thus protecting it from degradation and exposure to the elements.

[image and story from][photo credit: Stephan Schuster lab, Penn State]

One thought on “Mammoth progress”

  1. Wait, does this mean we have to stop shouting “you can’t clone someone from a lock of hair!” whenever it’s done in a movie? Or were there skin cells clinging to the bottom of the shaft?

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