Friday, May 02, 2008

Tree DNA Database Gets Greenlight.


by blogger jgl

While this project is not directly related to forensics, there has been "palo verde" talk in the forensic community for some time. There is a chance that DNA from plant material on a suspect can be linked to a specific plant at a crime scene (or vice versa). While this work focuses on species identification (which is already possible for most species), the collection and sequencing of more DNA on a wider scale could lead to a better database. Not only would almost all plants be identifiable to the level of species, but many haplotypes within a species could be identified producing a ballpark assessment of rarity.

The New York Botanical Garden may be best known for its orchid shows and colorful blossoms, but its researchers are about to lead a global effort to capture DNA from thousands of tree species from around the world....

The project is known as TreeBOL, or tree barcode of life. As in a similar project under way focusing on the world's fish species, participants would gather genetic material from trees around the world...

"If you don't know what you're potentially destroying, how can you know if it's important or not?" he said. "We know so little about the natural world, when it comes down to it, even though we've been working on it for hundreds of years."...

In order for the database to be useful, the same section of DNA must be used in all the samples so comparisons can be made across species. Part of the work at this week's meeting is to figure out which section to use, as well as other logistical issues among the more than 40 participating organizations...

And back at home in the Bronx, state-of-the-art labs allow researchers to examine plant DNA to figure out how genes influence plant development and to examine the relationships between plant species. The garden is also home to a collection of more than 7 million dried plant specimens, Miller said.

Dried plant specimens... uh-oh. Us 676ers here at UAB know that the extraction method will have to be chosen carefully.

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