The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) in Bethesda, Maryland, is getting its primate house in order. First, the institute played a major role in sequencing the human genome. Then the chimp’s DNA got the all-star treatment. And when comparing the two genomes proved incredibly useful for understanding our own DNA, NHGRI set its sights on the rhesus macaque, marmoset, orangutan, and gorilla. Now the gibbon is getting in line.
From the moment the first complex organism–a nematode–was sequenced in 1998, researchers have struggled to make sense of a veritable alphabet soup of A’s, T’s, G’s, and C’s. Sequencing other genomes has helped: Comparing the DNA of related organisms has been key to identifying regulatory regions of DNA and other essential genome components. To continue its quest to understand how genomes work, NHGRI has regularly solicited proposals from researchers asking them to recommend the next candidates for sequencing.
The gibbon won out because it’s a second cousin to humans and, as such, will eventually help biomedical researchers pinpoint the genetic bases of disease, says NHGRI Director Francis Collins. The institute expects to have the genome sequenced within 3 years.