Researchers combined key portions of two modern mouse genes that descended from the archaic gene in a study that might lead to a new approach to gene therapy.
"It provides further evidence at the molecular level of how evolution has occurred and is occurring, and thus makes the process less mysterious," said Mario Capecchi, professor of human genetics at the University of Utah School of Medicine and an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
"We've shown some of the elements involved in the process of evolution by reversing this process and reconstructing a gene that later became two genes," he added.
Capecchi and postdoctoral fellow Petr Tvrdik said the ability to reconstruct an ancient gene from descendant genes also raises the possibility of a new type of gene therapy, in which a portion of a related gene could be inserted into a disease-causing mutant gene to restore its normal function and cure the disease.
Their research is detailed in the journal Developmental Cell.