Feeds

Mammoth wool gives up genetic secrets

Are you taking a sample?

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

A new technique has allowed researchers to extract genetic information from the hair shafts of ancient woolly mammoths.

The team behind the breakthrough, based at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, says the method should also work on other well-preserved mammal specimens, the BBC reports.

It is well known to all watchers of CSI, as well as the scientific community, that there is plenty of DNA to be found in the root of a hair. But the shaft was not thought to be a good source, until now.

Knowing this, the team decided to crunch up lots of hair from each of their specimen mammoths on the off-chance it would work. "Basically, for every mammoth we tried, it worked. That blew us away," said Dr Tom Gilbert.

Rather than bog standard DNA, the team reconstructed sequences of mitochondrial DNA. Previously, only two mitochrondrial genomes have been published. The team from Copenhagen has included 10 in the Science paper.

The key to the DNA's preservation lies in the structure of the hair shaft. Gilbert told the BBC: "The reason we think hair is so great comes down to the fact that as a structure, hair is made out of this material called keratin. It's a kind of protein that in a very simplistic sense can be viewed as a plastic that the DNA gets embedded in and surrounded by and protected by."

The team says the technique will be invaluable to researchers wanting to find out more about many specimens - other woolly mammals, like Rhinos, and even ancient humans, held in the vaults of the world's museums. ®

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
TRIANGULAR orbits will help Rosetta to get up close with Comet 67P
Probe will be just 10km from Space Duck in October
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.