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Large Scale Comparative Genomics: NSF Awards $2.4M for Study of Snake, Lizard Genomes

NEW YORK, Aug. 20 (GenomeWeb News) - Call it a large "scale" project: A team of researchers has been awarded a $2.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation to use comparative genomics to study the evolutionary history of lizards and snakes, according to San Diego State University, one of the participating institutions.

The grant, announced Monday, will cover a five-year study by researchers at SDSU, Brigham Young University, Field Museum of Natural History, State University of New York-Stony Brook, University of Adelaide (Australia), University of Texas-Austin and Yale. 

The researchers will identify and sequence 50 core genes in these squamates, and compare these stretches of sequence to those in other completed vertebrate genome.

Tod Reeder, a biology professor at SDSU, and colleagues, for example, will get $648,000 to do comparative genomics on mouse, human, and puffer fish genome, and compare them to genes found in squamates.

"It's almost certain that the genes we find common in humans, puffer fish and mice will be present in all vertebrates," Reeder said in a statement. "We will look for those genes in lizards and snakes and use the DNA sequence information to determine the evolutionary history for these squamate reptiles."

The researchers are also building a website that will identify a family tree for different lizards and snakes, which is designed to be useful in medicine. "Understanding these relationships will allow doctors to make more informed choices when treating snake bites," stated Reeder. "For example, it's very possible an antidote or anti-venom used for one type of snake bite will also heal wounds inflicted by other closely-related snakes."

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