Back in February of 2010 I blogged about a research paper on Tutankhamun. In that post I focused on the paleopathological findings of the Hawass et al article and didn’t really mention the genetic research and resulting identification of Tutankhamun’s family. Recently this second aspect of the Hawass et al study have bubbled to the surface.
From the New Scientist article linked to above:
Ian Barnes, a molecular palaeobiologist at Royal Holloway, University of London, is also concerned. “In my experience it is not very easy to get these results,” he says. “I can’t do it, and I’ve spent a long time trying.”
Zink and his colleagues used a genetic fingerprinting approach that involves testing variable regions of the genome called microsatellites, which are made up of short sequence repeats. The numbers of repeats vary between individuals, and by comparing the number of repeats across several microsatellites it is possible to work out whether or not individuals are related.
However, researchers rarely attempt this approach with ancient samples because the original DNA is likely to be degraded, and dwarfed by modern contamination. It’s more common to sequence mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) – cells contain around a thousand times more copies of mtDNA than of genomic DNA, improving chances of finding large intact samples.
Which is interesting, but even more interesting, to me, is this:
To judge the quality of the team’s results, Lorenzen and others are asking for access to raw data not included in the Journal of the American Medical Association paper – but Zink is reluctant to oblige, fearing the data would spark “a lot of arguing” over technicalities.
Does anyone find it odd that the Zink group doesn’t want to share their raw data?