NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Beijing Genomics Institute at Shenzhen announced today that it is launching an International Giant Panda Genome Project.
Scientists at BGI-Shenzhen plan to sequence a panda to be selected from the Chengdu and Wolong breeding centers using high-throughput sequencing technology. They hope to have a draft genome sequence assembled within six months. The giant panda genome is roughly the same size as the human genome and contains some 20,000 to 30,000 genes.
The project is intended to provide new insights into panda ecology and evolution. This could shed light on the panda’s history, migration, and relationships to other animals, as well as information about panda fitness and diseases that may help protect the endangered animals. Eventually, the team plans to do panda transcriptome studies and studies on genetic variations in the panda population.
“[I]t is the first genome project to be undertaken specifically to gather information that will contribute to conservation efforts for an endangered species,” Oliver Ryder, an endangered species researcher at the San Diego Zoo who participated in a Panda Genome workshop held in Shenzhen earlier this year, said in a statement. “The giant panda is a global conservation symbol and deserving of such an effort.”