Collaborative effort uncovers DNA duplications that may be responsible for genomic-based diseases

December 27, 2011

An important part of saving a species is often understanding its DNA. Through a collaborative effort including 14 scientists representing organizations across Europe and the United States, researchers have been able to analyze the genome of the great ape species of the world.

"A robust appreciation of the means and methods of the evolution of genomes which underlies the diversification of the great apes requires a more detailed knowledge of genome variation that is poorly revealed by current genome sequencing methods. " said Oliver Ryder Ph.D., Director of Genetics for San Diego Zoo Global's Institute of Conservation Research. "This article represents an international collaboration that provides a new level of understanding of the evolutionary dynamics of relatively small DNA duplications that, in humans - and likely great apes as well - may be contributing factors to "genomic" diseases, that in include autism and mental retardation."

The study, published in the August issue of Genome Research, highlights the areas of DNA that appear to be most closely shared by different great ape species. Of particular note is the fact that bonobo and chimpanzee DNA share more copy number variants with gorilla than expected.
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The San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research is dedicated to generating, sharing and applying scientific knowledge vital to the conservation of animals, plants and habitats worldwide. The work of the Institute includes onsite research efforts at the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (historically referred to as Wild Animal Park), laboratory work at the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center for Conservation Research, and international field programs involving more than 235 researchers working in 35 countries. In addition to the Beckman Center for Conservation Research, the Institute also operates the Anne and Kenneth Griffin Reptile Conservation Center, the Frozen Zoo® and Native Seed Gene Bank, the Keauhou and Maui Hawaiian Bird Conservation Centers, Cocha Cashu Biological Research Station and the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center. The Zoo also manages the 1,800-acre San Diego Zoo Safari Park, which includes a 900-acre biodiversity reserve, and the San Diego Zoo. The important conservation and science work of these entities is supported in part by The Foundation of the Zoological Society of San Diego.

Zoological Society of San Diego

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