York researchers review potential for alternative sources of ancient DNA

Posted on 24 July 2017

Eleanor Green and Camilla Speller call for a wider range of biological substrates

Researchers from BioArCh have reviewed analyses of "novel" sources of ancient DNA (aDNA) in a new paper.

Eleanor Green and Camilla Speller discuss the pressing need for more refined models of DNA preservation and bespoke tools for DNA extraction and analysis in the journal Genes.

Following the discovery in the late 1980s that hard tissues such as bones and teeth preserve genetic information, the field of ancient DNA analysis has typically concentrated upon these substrates. The past three decades of aDNA analysis have witnessed the recovery of genetic material from a wide range of ancient tissues and artefacts, including inorganic matrices once thought to be barren of surviving DNA (e.g., eggshells and ceramics). 

The relative proportion of studies discussed in thepaper (126 papers from 1988 to May 2017) targeting various alternative substrates for the recovery of ancient DNA. NHC: natural history collections.

Further optimization of DNA extraction and analytical techniques, coupled with high-throughput and single-molecule sequencing will catalyze research in this area, allowing greater access to the often low-template, highly damaged DNA retained within these substrates.

With such tools in place the potential for neglected or underexploited substrates to provide a unique insight into phylogenetics, microbial evolution and evolutionary processes will be realised.

Read the full open-access paper here: doi:10.3390/genes8070180