Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Mapping our Genes

If you are interested in the application of DNA testing to improving our understanding of human biology and relationships (a possible direction for the future analysis of mummies in Egypt and elsewhere), then this article is worth the very brief fiddle of signing up to free access. There are only a few fields to complete. Here's an extract to give you a reasonable flavour of whether or not it is worth your effort:

Many experts say the gene detection industry is undergoing a technological revolution similar to what Intel co-founder Gordon Moore foresaw more than three decades ago when he correctly predicted that the number of computer-chip transistors would double every two years.

It took 13 years and cost about $450 million using a fleet of genetic analysis equipment to finish the first-ever complete detailing of the human genome in 2003, said Geoff Spencer, of the National Institutes of Health.

But with just one of the latest machines - which are far faster, use fewer chemicals and require fewer people to operate - the same task could be done in weeks for about $5 million, he said. And in the near future, experts predict, that cost will drop into the thousands of dollars. . . . .

Until recently, trying to understand human biology was like the fabled blind men groping an elephant. Scientists had a rudimentary understanding of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, the double helix-shaped molecule that holds each living thing's genetic coding. And they knew how to do relatively simple genetic comparisons, for everything from identifying people who commit heinous crimes to resolving paternity issues in child-support disputes.

One novel version of that basic sort of matching is being done by Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities in collaboration with the Discovery Channel to identify the mummy of Hatshepsut, Egypt's most famous female pharaoh. With Applied's instruments, the team is comparing the DNA from two mummies known to be Hatshepsut's maternal grandmother and father with that of two female mummies suspected to be Hatshepsut.

But much more is possible now thanks to technological innovations in genetic mapping.

See the above page for the complete article.