Reconstructing the Prehistoric DNA of Neanderthals

Reconstructing the Prehistoric DNA of Neanderthals

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted June 27, 2007 in DNA in General

jurassic park adventure packHave we taken a step closer to Jurassic Park? That’s what I thought when I first saw the headline announcing that “researchers may remake Neanderthal DNA.” Unfortunately (or fortunately?), my imagination has misled me once again.

The point of reconstructing a complete Neanderthal genome is to understand how they and modern humans diverged over 30,000 years ago. The plan would be to use DNA samples from more than one Neanderthal corpse. Being able to put together an accurate DNA sequence despite contamination and degradation caused by microorganisms is a technical achievement as well.

For more about the analysis of ancient DNA, read this excellent piece by Henry Nicholls in PLoS Biology: Ancient DNA Comes of Age.

In 1994, while Jurassic Park was still taking in millions of dollars at the box office, scientists claimed to have extracted and sequenced DNA from an 80-million-year-old dinosaur. When sceptical researchers took a look at the sequence, it turned out to be of human rather than dinosaur origin.

Oops. Guess I wasn’t the only one with Jurassic Park on the brain.

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Comment by Sara

I am fascinated by Neanderthals. Do we know for sure how they died out? Did they live at the same time? Oh, okay, I’ll google it… ;)

Comment by David Bradley

So, we’re reconstructing the Neanderthals and are almost on the verge of cloning a mammoth

…what a party that’s going to be!



[...] Some nice posts on the subject can be found on and Eye on DNA. [...]

Comment by Konstantinos Vougas

John Hawks, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, says that every genetic difference between a Neandertal and a living person is a potential candidate for a gene or drug therapy. That sounds interesting…


[...] month, scientists announced that they are one step closer to reconstructing a complete Neanderthal genome. In this podcast interview, Marc Pelletier of Futures in Biotech interviewed Dr. Svente Paabo, [...]


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