Scientists to sequence giant panda genome

March 6th, 2008 - 11:09 pm ICT by admin  

Shenzhen (China), March 6 (Xinhua) Scientists from five countries, including China, the US and Britain, Thursday launched a project to sequence the genome of the giant panda. “The goal of this project is to finish the assembling of a draft sequence within six months,” said Zhu Hongmei, a scientist with the Beijing Genomics Institute’s Shenzhen branch.

The data from the International Giant Panda Genome Project is expected to have an extensive impact on numerous scientific areas such as ecology, evolution and sequencing technology, Zhu said.

The project is jointly carried out by scientists from China, Britain, the US, Denmark and Canada.

The results from the sequencing will contribute to the understanding of genetic and biological underpinnings of the giant panda. It will also help to protect, monitor and control diseases of the endangered species.

“The most noteworthy aspect of the project is that it is for the first a genome project has been initiated to gather information from an endangered species,” said Oliver Ryder of the San Diego Zoo’s Center for Conservation and Research for Endangered Species.

“The giant panda is a global conservation symbol and deserves such an effort,” he added.

“The project will help scientists understand the genetic basis for the giant panda’s adaptation to its special diet and behavioural style. It will reveal the history of their population isolation and migration,” said Zhang Yaping, Director of the Kunming Institute of Zoology.

The panda, whose DNA will be sequenced for the project will be chosen from among those at the Chengdu and Wolong breeding centres.

Besides producing a high-quality genome sequence, researchers will conduct a survey for the genetic variations in panda population.

The giant panda, often referred to as a living fossil, has been the focal point of many research projects. It is considered a symbol of China and is one of the mascots for the upcoming Olympics in Beijing.

However, so far, little research has been done on panda DNA.

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