25 species genomes have been sequenced to mark Wellcome Sanger Institute’s 25th anniversary
PUBLISHED: 21:38 18 October 2018 | UPDATED: 21:38 18 October 2018
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The 25 Genomes Project has been completed - and will aid biodiversity studies and conservation projects
Scientists at the Wellcome Sanger Institute and their collaborators have completed the sequencing of 25 UK species.
Marking the institute’s 25th anniversary, the work will aid biodiversity studies and aid conservation projects.
Sequencing of the first human genome – the complete set of genetic instructions written in DNA – took 13 years and billions of dollars to complete. But with great advances in technology, scientists have sequenced the 25 species’ genomes in less than a year and at a fraction of the cost.
Dr Julia Wilson, associate director of the Sanger Institute, said: “Sequencing these species for the first time didn’t come without challenges, but our scientists and staff repeatedly came up with innovative solutions to overcome them.
“We have learned much through this project already and this new knowledge is flowing into many areas of our large scale science.
“Now that the genomes have been read, the pieces of each species puzzle need to be put back together during genome assembly before they are made available.”
The genomes could help researchers to learn why some brown trout migrate to the open ocean, whilst others don’t, or investigate the magneto receptors in robins’ eyes that allow them to ‘see’ the magnetic fields of the Earth.
It could help explain why red squirrels are vulnerable to the squirrel pox virus, while grey squirrels can spread it without becoming ill.
Dan Mead, co-ordinator of Sanger’s 25 Genomes Project, said: “We are already discovering the surprising secrets these species hold in their genomes.
“We’ve found that king scallops are more genetically diverse than we are, and the Roesel’s bush cricket’s genome is four times the size of the human genome. Similar to when the Human Genome Project first began, we don’t know where these findings could take us.”
The institute partnered with PacBio, 10x Genomics and Illumina to create the most comprehensive view of the genomes, which will be made freely available to scientists to use in their research.
Dr Tim Littlewood, head of life sciences at the Natural History Museum, London, and a project partner, said: “These newly-sequenced genomes are a starting point that will reveal aspects of evolution we’ve not even dreamt of.”
The project is a small step towards the scientific goal of sequencing all life on Earth.
Professor Sir Mike Stratton, director of the Sanger Institute, said: “DNA sequencing technology has advanced over the last number of years to a point at which we can at least discuss the possibility of sequencing the genomes of all of life on Earth.
“From those DNA sequences we will obtain inestimable insights into how evolution has worked, and to how life has worked.”
The 25 species are grey squirrel, ringlet butterfly, Roesel’s bush cricket, Oxford ragwort, red squirrel, water vole, turtle dove, northern February red stonefly, giant hogweed, Indian balsam, king scallop, also known as great scallop (Coquilles Saint-Jacques), New Zealand flatworm, golden eagle, blackberry, European robin, red mason bee, brown trout, common pipistrelle bat, Carrington’s featherwort, summer truffle, common starfish, fen raft spider, lesser spotted catshark, Asian hornet and Eurasian otter.