In a new study fraught with some heady ethical questions, scientists have sequenced almost the complete genome of an unborn child, and done so without interrupting the fetus or the mother’s womb. The team used the mother’s blood and the father’s saliva to determine their child’s genetic sequence in the second trimester.
In 2003, scientists with the Human Genome Project announced the completion of their 13-year effort to identify the three billion base pairs that form the chemical rungs in DNA’s signature twisted-ladder shape. This first attempt to create a comprehensive map of a human biological system was more than just a breakthrough for geneticists, though. It also marked the launch of a new era of “-omic”-based research, in which biologists began shifting their attention from the individual parts within a system to studying the system itself.
DNA genome sequencing has the potential to unlock a lot of secrets of our biology, but the process of DNA amplification -- making billions of molecular copies of a DNA strand in order to create a large enough sample to analyze -- takes a lot of time and money. So a Boston University team came up with a novel solution: avoid amplification altogether.
A new "genomic zoo" has launched, with the goal of sequencing the genomes of 10,000 vertebrate species. The project aims to help researchers understand recent and rapid adaptive changes among the species. It could also allow predictions of how certain species might respond to climate change, pollution, new diseases and competitors.
The Genome 10K Project will scour zoos, museums and universities worldwide for thousands of specimens. An international coalition of more than 68 scientists has outlined their plans in a paper that will appear tomorrow in the Journal of Heredity.