Long-Locked Genome of Ancient Man Sequenced

From Scientific American:

Ancient-human-genome_1 When a man died some 4,000 years ago in what is now western Greenland, he probably had no idea that his remains would provide the first genetic portrait of people of his era. This man, known now as “Inuk” (a Greenlandic term for “human” or “man”) left for posterity just four hairs and a few small fragments of bone frozen in permafrost, but that is now all researchers need to assemble a thorough human genome. And Inuk has just had his code cracked.

The researchers were able to sequence about 80 percent of the ancient genome, which is “comparable to the quality of a modern human genome,” Eske Willerslev, director of the Center for Ancient Genetics at the University of Copenhagen, said at a press conference held in the England February 9. He and his team, led by Morten Rasmussen, an assistant professor at the University, were able to sequence about three billion base pairs (the human genome includes just over this amount), which is a finer resolution than that of previous genetic work on Neandertals and mammoths. Their findings will be published February 11 in the journal Nature. (Scientific American is part of Nature Publishing Group.) At this level of resolution, the researchers noted, individual features and traits began to emerge. “The guy had most likely brown eyes, brown skin” as well as a genetic predisposition for baldness, Willerslev said. The presence of hair, then, might signal that he was rather young when he died and had yet to lose most of his hair, they noted. The genome also tells us Inuk had the recessive gene for dry earwax (as opposed to the more common wet form) and “a metabolism and body mass index commonly found in those who live in cold climates,” David Lambert and Leon Huynenboth of the School of Biomolecular and Physical Sciences at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, wrote in a commentary that accompanies the study.

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