Thursday, December 11, 2003

Draft Chimp Genome Assembled

This is very, very big news. With this information a lot of the biggest questions about human nature and our origins will come much closer to getting answers.

BETHESDA, Md., Dec. 10, 2003 – The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), today announced the first draft version of the genome sequence of the chimpanzee and its alignment with the human genome. All of the data have been deposited into free public databases and are now available for use by scientists around the world.

The sequence of the chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes, was assembled by NHGRI-funded teams led by Eric Lander, Ph.D., at The Eli & Edythe L. Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.; and Richard K. Wilson, Ph.D., at the Genome Sequencing Center, Washington University School of Medicine, Saint Louis.

Researchers deposited the initial assembly, which is based on four-fold sequence coverage of the chimp genome, into the NIH-run, public database, GenBank, (www.ncbi.nih.gov/Genbank). In turn, Genbank will distribute the sequence data to the European Molecular Biology Laboratory's Nucleotide Sequence Database, EMBL-Bank (www.ebi.ac.uk/embl/index.html), and the DNA Data Bank of Japan, DDBJ (www.ddbj.nig.ac.jp).

To facilitate biomedical studies comparing regions of the chimp genome with similar regions of the human genome, the researchers also have aligned the draft version of the chimp sequence with the human sequence. Those alignments can be scanned using the University of California, Santa Cruz's Genome Browser, (http://genome.ucsc.edu/cgi-bin/hgGateway); the National Center for Biotechnology Information's Map Viewer, (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/mapview); and the European Bioinformatics Institute's Ensembl system, (http://www.ensembl.org/).

Hats off to Dr. Lander, Dr. Wilson et al! Now perhaps we'll start to get some substantive insights into the nature of human intelligence and how it arose.