Saturday, 11 October 2008

Giant Panda Genome Sequence Completed

Giant Panda Genome Sequence Completed Saturday, 11 October 2008 Giant pandas in Beijing Zoo.Chinese scientists have completed sequencing the genome of giant pandas, Xinhua news agency reported on Saturday. They hope the new information will give them a better biological understanding of why pandas eat bamboo, have black circles around their eyes and produce few offspring. "By sequencing the giant panda genome we've laid the genetic and biological foundation for us to gain a deeper understanding of the peculiar species," said Dr. Wang Jun, a scientist with the Beijing Genomics Institute's Shenzhen branch (BGI Shenzhen), a core participant in the project. The International Giant Panda Genome Project only started in March 2008 with scientists from China, Britain, the United States, Denmark and Canada. The Beijing Genomics Institute, Shenzhen (BGI-SZ), initiated it. The giant panda genome is approximately the same size as the human genome, and is thought to have 20,000-30,000 genes. Taxonomy and genetic studies indicate that the giant panda is most closely related to bears, not to raccoons as was once considered, given their unique physical characteristics. So far, scientists learned, through drawing and assembling the genome sequence that giant pandas are akin to dogs and human beings but are very different from mice. They also discovered more supporting evidence that giant pandas might be a subspecies of black bears. Giant pandas are among the world's most endangered animals due to their shrinking habitat. It was one reason why scientists decided to sequence its genome. "It will help genetically explain why giant pandas have poor reproductive abilities, so that scientists can help them deliver more cubs," Wang said. Wang said knowledge of the genome could also help efforts to control disease among pandas. Scientists for the genome sequencing chose a three-year-old female panda, named Jing Jing, from the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda breeding in southwest China’s Sichuan Province. Jing Jing was also the prototype of one of the five mascots of the Beijing Olympics. There are about 1,590 pandas living in China's wild, mostly in Sichuan and the north-western provinces of Shaanxi and Gansu. In 2007, there were 239 captive-bred giant pandas in China. Yang Huanming, another scientist at BGI Shenzhen, said his colleagues would work on mapping out a more detailed genome sequence of the panda by the end of this year. Chinese scientists have made big improvements in gene studies and genome sequencing in the past few years through their own efforts and participation in a series of international projects. They have contributed to the genome sequencing of a rice paddy, silkworm, hen and pig. In October last year, they finished sequencing the first Han Chinese genome. ......... ZenMaster

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