Ancient DNA distinguished from modern DNA

Jan. 2, 2010 at 2:50 PM
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LEIPZIG, Germany, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- It's now possible to distinguish between ancient DNA and modern DNA that contaminates an archaeological site, a German scientist said.

The new techniques were used in sequencing the genome of a young adult male known as the Markina Gora skeleton, the BBC reported Saturday.

The 30,000-year-old skeleton, that of a young adult male, was excavated in 1954 from Kostenki near the river Don in southern Russia, said Svante Paabo, a researcher with the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

When compared with modern DNA, ancient DNA tends to show mutations at the end of molecules, the molecules break at different points in the DNA strand, and fragments of ancient DNA often are shorter than modern DNA fragments, Paabo and his Russian associates wrote in a recent issue of Current Biology.

The ability to distinguish between modern and ancient DNA will make it easier to trust results from archaeological digs, he said.

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