Thursday, February 11, 2010

DNA of ancient hair

A research article reported in Nature is being widely circulated. Eske Willerslev, of the Niels Bohr Institute and Institute of Biology University of Copenhagen, along with many co-authors, recovered the genome of a Greenland resident of 4,000 years ago, using 4 strands of hair. Great science as a result of dogged persistence, increasingly powerful technical methods, and being in the right place at the right time.

From the article in the NY Times by Nicholas Wade:

The genome of a man who lived on the western coast of Greenland some 4,000 years ago has been decoded, thanks to the surprisingly good preservation of DNA in a swatch of his hair so thick it was originally thought to be from a bear.

This is the first time the whole genome of an ancient human has been analyzed, and it joins the list of just eight whole genomes of living people that have been decoded so far. It also sheds new light on the settlement of North America by showing there was a hitherto unsuspected migration of people across the continent, from Siberia to Greenland, some 5,500 years ago.

Or, listen to the NPR story by Christopher Joyce.

I guess I should have saved some of my hair when I went to the friseur in Stuttgart on Monday.

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