Researchers may have found a key genetic component that not only will provide a better insight on gorillas, but also will further the linkage between humans and gorillas as well. Scientists at the University of Washington’s Eichler lab were capable of creating a gorilla genome almost entirely, by using new technology capable of reading long genetic code sequences.
The new study co-authored by Christopher Hill, genetic researcher at the University of Washington was published in the journal Science earlier this Thursday. The new single molecule real-time technology (SMRT) was a substantial advantage for researchers working along with Pacific Biosciences. The research was able to complete the first gorilla genome that was sequenced four years ago and consisted of over 400,000 gaps in its sequence.
Now, thanks to the work of scientists at the University of Washington in collaboration with the Pacific Biosciences, 90 percent of the gaps have been filled. The study revealed that while the gorilla genome lacked most of its information, it holds many answers for the great ape family. The findings could lead researchers to determine the basic differences between both gorilla species and human species in order to prove what actually separates people from apes.
Researchers now count with a gorilla named Susie as their volunteer for the sequencing of the gorilla genome, and Susie could help scientists to make a breakthrough in the world of genetics. What’s more, instead of focusing on what makes human different from any animal – including the great apes family –, researchers are more interested in establishing all similarities in comparison to modern humans.
Susie was kind enough to provide scientists with a blood sample, which was the starting point for the genome sequencing. And considering the study helped complete the gorilla genome on a 90 percent, it’s safe to assume that there’s much more about gorillas that researchers didn’t know. The gaps from the previous study of the gorilla’s genome back in 2012 were the result of genetic code repeating itself until it breaks apart the data from the genome.
New sequencing technology shows better results
Now, thanks to SMRT sequencing from Pacific Biosciences, researchers had all they needed to recreate over 90 percent of the data lost in previous studies. After completing the gorilla genome by using the sequencing technology, researchers at the Eichler lab could read the gorilla’s genetic code written within its genomes.
As a result, the gaps in the genome of gorillas went from the exaggerated amount of 400,000 to a reasonable 16,000, all thanks to the collaboration of the Pacific Biosciences new SMRT sequencing. The Eichler lab’s main goal is to accurately compile a wide-ranging catalogue of what differentiates humans from great apes on a genetic level, according to the study’s co-author Christopher Hill.
“The differences between species may aid researchers in identifying regions of the human genome that are associated with higher cognition, complex language, behavior and neurological diseases,” said Christopher Hill from the University of Washington.
The catalogue would include all great apes, such as orangutans, chimpanzees, gorillas, and bonobos. Hill also claims that gorilla and human evolutionary ancestries took their own paths backing up 12 million to 8 million years ago, according to recent studies.