Ice Age DNA
JURASSIC PARK here we come? Not quite, but we might now be able to sequence the genomes of mammoths and even Neanderthals, thanks to a new way to correct the errors in sequencing ancient DNA that are made because it degrades over time.
When Svante Pääbo's group at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, analysed DNA from 50 to 50,000-year-old bone samples from wolves, a single error stood out: one of DNA's "letters", cytosine, had degraded in such a way that sequencing machines misinterpreted it as the letter thymine. Comparison of ancient DNA with a closely related modern species could allow such errors to be identified and corrected (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073 pnas.0605327103).
This opens the way for sequencing species that died out during the last ice age, says Pääbo.