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My Kingdom for My Genomic Sequence

We may never know if he ever really offered his kingdom for a horse, but we may find out the color of his hair and what ailments may have plagued him.

The Wellcome Trust announced that Richard III and one of his living descendants will be sequenced in a project aimed to reveal new light on the ancestry and health of England's last king to die in battle and to provide "a complete archive of information that historians, scientists, and the public will be able to access and use."

You may recall that the remains of Richard III — who has become synonymous with treachery and is reputed to have killed his nephews in his quest for power, if Shakespeare is to be believed — were discovered in 2012 buried beneath a parking lot in Leicester. They were confirmed to belong to Richard III by archaeologists and scientists from the University of Leicester a year ago.

Those remains and samples taken from them are scheduled to be reburied, but before they are, a team of scientists led by Turi King from Leicester's department of genetics plans to sequence the king's genome, along with a living descendant, Michael Ibsen, whose mitochondrial DNA was compared with the remains found in the parking lot and used to identify Richard III.

By sequencing his genome, insights may be gained into Richard III's genetic makeup, including susceptibility to diseases, and hair and eye color. The research also is anticipated to shed light on his ancestry and relationship to modern humans, Wellcome Trust says, adding the work will allow researchers to detect DNA from other organisms such as pathogens.

The foundation notes that the sequencing of Otzi the Iceman led to the discovery of the first known human infection of Lyme disease.

Richard III would join a small group of ancient individuals to have their genome sequenced, Wellcome Trust says. In addition to Otzi, Neanderthal specimens, a Denisovan and Greenlandic Inuit, and a hunter-gatherer from Spain have also been sequenced. In Richard III's case, however, his identity is actually known.

Wellcome Trust, the Leverhulme Trust, and Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys are funding the effort.