Preserved in crystal
Scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science recently discovered a new source of well-preserved ancient DNA in fossil bones. Their findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Fossil DNA is a potential source of information on the evolution, population dynamics, migrations, diets and diseases of animals and humans. But if it is not well preserved or becomes contaminated by modern DNA, the results are uninterpretable.
The scientists, Prof. Steve Weiner and Michal Salamon of the Institutes Structural Biology Department, working in collaboration with Profs. Baruch Arensburg, Tel Aviv University, and Noreen Tuross, Harvard University, may have found a way to overcome these problems.
It was in 1986 that Weiner first reported the existence of crystal clusters in fresh bones. Even when these bones are ground up and treated with sodium hypochlorite – a substance that removes all traces of organic matter – the clusters of crystals remain intact and the organic material embedded in them is unaffected. Now, almost 20 years later, Weiner and Salamon have returned to these findings, reasoning that fossil bones might possess such crystal structures containing preserved ancient DNA.
After treating two modern and six fossil animal bones with the sodium hypo-chlorite, they found that DNA could be extracted from most of these crystal aggregates that is better preserved and contains longer fragments than DNA from untreated ground bone. The technique for reading the DNA worked better, as well, and the use of sodium hypochlorite reduces the possibility of modern contamination.
The crystal aggregates act as a "privileged niche in fossil bone," protecting the DNA from hostile environments and leaving it relatively undamaged over time. The teams findings suggest that the DNA in these aggregates should be preferred, whenever possible, over DNA from untreated bone.
This method holds much promise for the future analysis of ancient DNA in bones in yielding more reliable and authentic results than has previously been possible, and may help in unearthing the mysteries of our ancestral past.
Elizabeth McCrocklin | EurekAlert!
The most recent press releases about innovation >>>
Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:
Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.
For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...
What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.
To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...
A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes
The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....
Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through
A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...
Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision
Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...