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Chimp Genome Goes Online
By Edward R. Winstead

American scientists have completed a draft of the chimpanzee genome, aligned it with the human genome sequence, and deposited the raw data into computer databases that can be accessed online by researchers worldwide.

But the world will have to wait until next year for the results of a side-by-side analysis of the two genomes. The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) in Bethesda, Maryland, announced the draft sequence ahead of the publication of a scientific paper because it wants the community of researchers to know that the data are available for use.

“We’re looking forward to talking more about the findings once we have the whole story,” says Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, who was responsible for the chimp sequencing at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts (formerly the Whitehead Institute). “Today we just want people to know that the data are out there and that they’re useful.”

The NHGRI funded the project. The sequencing was done at the Broad Institute and at the Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis. Using the whole-genome shotgun technique, the researchers essentially sequenced the chimp genome four times over.

The genome project began in January 2003, and the researchers used the DNA of six unrelated chimpanzees from around the world. By comparing the six individuals, they hope to identify disease-related genetic differences and compare those to differences in humans.

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The chimpanzee sequence is available at GenBank, the database funded by the US National Institutes of Health, and will be distributed to public databases hosted in Europe and Japan. The human-chimp alignment data can be accessed through the Web site of the University of California, Santa Cruz, and other places.

Scientific papers on the chimpanzee genome are expected in the spring or summer of 2004.

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