Ancient DNA

Authors: M. Hofreiter, D. Serre, H.N. Poinar, M. Kuch and S. Pääbo
Journal: Nature reviews | Genetics volume 2 – 353 (May 2001)

DNA that has been recovered from archaeological and palaeontological remains makes it possible to go back in time and study the genetic relationships of extinct organisms to their contemporary relatives. This provides a new perspective on the evolution of organisms and DNA sequences. However, the field is fraught with technical pitfalls and needs stringent criteria to ensure the reliability of results, particularly when human remains are studied.

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Molecular Analyses of Oral Polio Vaccine Samples

Authors: H.N. Poinar, M. Kuch and S. Pääbo
Journal: Science – Vol 292 (April 2001)

It has been suggested that the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and thus the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) it causes, was inadvertently
introduced to humans by the use of an oral polio vaccine (OPV) during a vaccination campaign launched by the Wistar Institute, Philadelphia, PA, USA, in the Belgian Congo in 1958 and 1959. The “OPV/AIDS hypothesis” suggests that the OPV used in this campaign was produced in chimpanzee kidney epithelial cell cultures rather than in monkey kidney cell cultures, as stated by H. Koprowski and co-workers, who produced the OPV. If chimpanzee cells were indeed used, this would lend support to the OPV/AIDS hypothesis, since chimpanzees harbor a simian immunodeficiency virus, widely accepted to be the origin of HIV-1. We analyzed several early OPV pools and found no evidence for the presence of chimpanzee DNA; by contrast, monkey DNA is present.

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A molecular analysis of dietary diversity for three archaic Native Americans

Authors: H.N. Poinar, M. Kuch, K.D. Sobolik, I. Barnes, A.B. Stankiewiczi, T. Kuder, W. G. Spaulding, V.M. Bryant, A. Cooper and S. Pääbo
Journal: PNAS – vol. 98 – No. 8 – 4317–4322 (April 2001)

DNA was extracted from three fecal samples, more than 2,000 years old, from Hinds Cave, Texas. Amplification of human mtDNA sequences showed their affiliation with contemporary Native Americans, while sequences from pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, and cottontail rabbit allowed these animals to be identified as part of the diet of these individuals. Furthermore, amplification of chloroplast DNA sequences identified eight different plants as dietary elements. These archaic humans consumed 2–4 different animal species and 4–8 different plant species during a short time period. The success rate for retrieval of DNA from paleofeces is in strong contrast to that from skeletal remains where the success rate is generally low. Thus, human paleofecal remains represent a source of ancient DNA that significantly complements and may in some cases be superior to that from skeletal tissue.

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