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Zoo volunteers help explain mysteries of the genome
Date:9/6/2009

As the University of Leicester approaches the 25th anniversary of the discovery of DNA fingerprinting (September 10), Leicester geneticists interested in a particular type of DNA are receiving some help from an unusual band of assistants.

Chimpanzees at Twycross Zoo in Leicestershire have been trained to enable keepers to take DNA samples with special cheek swabs.

Dr Richard Badge, of the University's world renowned Department of Genetics, is studying 'mobile DNA' in the genomes of humans and other primates.

Most genes are always found in the same place in the genome. For example, the human DMD gene, changes in which can cause muscular dystrophy, is always found on the X chromosome. However the 'genes' that Dr Badge and his colleagues study have been moving around the genome throughout mammalian and primate evolution, and are still doing it today.

Dr Badge explained: "This makes every human (and every chimpanzee for that matter!) a little bit different at the DNA level, a little like a DNA fingerprint.

"The reason we are interested in chimpanzees is that the main type of mobile DNA in their genome apparently moves much more frequently than ours, despite the fact that these mobile DNAs are very, very similar.

"The chimpanzees at Twycross are very valuable because not only do they include unrelated chimpanzees they also have small family groups where the relationships between the individuals is known. This enables us to observe the difference between individuals in terms of their mobile DNA and say something about the process of movement, which is not really understood in detail.

"So far we have samples from fourteen Chimpanzees. We have full pedigrees for many - Noddy is the mum of Flynn, William, and Jomar, for example."

When Dr Badge and his team started the sampling programme at Twycross, they liaised with the Zoo vet, Nic Masters, to take mouth swabs from chimpanzees that had b
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Contact: Dr Richard Badge
rmb19@le.ac.uk
01-162-525-042
University of Leicester
Source:Eurekalert  

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