Group’s 1st genome maps un­veiled

The Columbus Dispatch - - Front Page - By Pa­trick Whit­tle

A group of sci­en­tists un­veiled the first re­sults Thurs­day of an am­bi­tious ef­fort to map the genes of tens of thou­sands of an­i­mal species, a pro­ject they said could help save an­i­mals from ex­tinc­tion.

The sci­en­tists are work­ing with the Genome 10,000 con­sor­tium on the Ver­te­brate Genomes Pro­ject, which is seek­ing to map the genomes of all 66,000 known species of mam­mal, bird, rep­tile, am­phib­ian and fish on Earth. Genome 10,000 has mem­bers at more than 50 in­sti­tu­tions around the globe.

The con­sor­tium re­leased the first 15 such maps on Thurs­day, rang­ing from the Canada lynx to the kakapo, a flight­less par­rot na­tive to New Zealand.

The genome is the en­tire set of ge­netic ma­te­rial that is present in an or­gan­ism. The re­lease of the first sets is “a state­ment to the world that what we want to ac­com­plish is in­deed fea­si­ble,” said Har­ris Lewin, a pro­fes­sor of evo­lu­tion at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Davis, who is work­ing on the pro­ject.

“The time has come, but of course it’s only the be­gin­ning,” Lewin said.

The work will help in­form fu­ture con­ser­va­tion­ists of jeop­ar­dized species, sci­en­tists work­ing on the pro­ject said. The first 14 species to be mapped also in­clude the duck-billed platy­pus, two bat species and the ze­bra finch. The ze­bra finch was the one species for which both sexes were mapped, bring­ing the to­tal to 15. Sci­en­tists Jen Vashon, left, and Tanya Lama show a Canada lynx that was used to source ge­netic ma­te­rial for the an­i­mal’s ref­er­ence genome at Cum­mings School of Ve­teri­nary Medicine in Worces­ter County, Mass.

Se­quenc­ing the genome of tens of thou­sands of an­i­mals could eas­ily take 10 years, said Sadye Paez, pro­gram di­rec­tor for the pro­ject. But giv­ing sci­en­tists ac­cess to this kind of in­for­ma­tion could help save rare species be­cause it would give con­ser­va­tion­ists and bi­ol­o­gists a new set of tools, she said.

Paez de­scribed the pro­ject as an ef­fort to “es­sen­tially com­mu­ni­cate a li­brary of life.”

Tanya Lama, a doc­toral can­di­date in en­vi­ron­men­tal con­ser­va­tion at the Univer­sity of Mas­sachusetts at Amherst, co­or­di­nated the ef­fort to se­quence the lynx genome. The wild cat is the sub­ject of de­bate about its con­ser­va­tion

sta­tus in the United States, and a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of its ge­net­ics can help pro­tect its fu­ture, Lama said.

“It’s go­ing to help us plan for the fu­ture — help us gen­er­ate tools for mon­i­tor­ing pop­u­la­tion health, and help us in­form con­ser­va­tion strat­egy,” she said.

The pro­ject has three “genome se­quenc­ing hubs,” in­clud­ing Rock­e­feller Univer­sity in New York; the Sanger In­sti­tute out­side Cam­bridge, Eng­land; and the Max Planck In­sti­tute of Molec­u­lar Cell Bi­ol­ogy and Ge­net­ics in Dres­den, Ger­many, or­ga­niz­ers said.

Mol­lie Mat­te­son, a se­nior sci­en­tist with the Cen­ter for Bi­o­log­i­cal Di­ver­sity

who is not in­volved in the pro­ject, said more in­for­ma­tion about an­i­mals’ ge­net­ics could lead to bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of how an­i­mals re­sist dis­ease or cope with changes in the en­vi­ron­ment.

“I think what’s in­ter­est­ing to me from a con­ser­va­tion as­pect is just what we might be able to dis­cern about the ge­netic di­ver­sity within a species,” Mat­te­son said.

The pro­ject has sim­i­lar­i­ties with the Earth BioGenome Pro­ject, which seeks to cat­a­log the genomes for 1.5 mil­lion species. Lewin chairs that pro­ject’s work­ing group. The Ver­te­brate Genomes Pro­ject will con­trib­ute to that ef­fort.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.