News & AnalysisGenetics

RNA Helps Resurrect Ancient DNA

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Science  01 Nov 2013:
Vol. 342, Issue 6158, pp. 543
DOI: 10.1126/science.342.6158.543

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With the genomes of Ötzi, the 5300-year-old iceman, and even Neandertals pouring out of DNA sequencing labs lately, you might think that it's now a piece of cake to glean the entire genetic code of an ancient human. But it turns out that those studies used exceptionally pure and well-preserved samples of DNA. More often, human remains found by scientists have long sat in soil warm enough to harbor bacteria, whose genes swamp out the human DNA and make it too costly to analyze. A clever new method for purifying ancient human DNA samples, reported last week at the annual meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics, could change that, however.