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15:04 Dec 31 2009

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Scientists complete sequencing Tibetan antelope genome
09:19, December 28, 2009  

A Tibetan antelope under state grade 1 protection is seen at a plateau grassland in Hol Xil Nature Reserve, northwest China's Qinghai Province, July 30, 2009. (Xinhua/Hou Deqiang)

Chinese scientists said Friday they have completed sequencing the genome of Tibetan antelopes, which will hopefully explain the pathogenesis of chronic plateau sickness.

Tibetan antelopes, a peculiar species on China's Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, have been given the highest level of protection under the United Nations' Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species since 1979, and listed among the most endangered species by the Chinese Government since 1988.

They are considered to be ideal species for evolution studies, as they had lived on "the Roof of the World" for millions of years against the backdrop of various environmental extremes, such as extreme cold and low oxygen levels.

"By sequencing the Tibetan antelope genome, we have laid the scientific foundation to decode the pathogenesis of chronic plateau sickness," said Yang Huanming, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and a participant of the project.

"The studies can also contribute to improving the health of the plateau inhabitants, especially those of Tibetan ethnic group that has lived on the plateau generations after generations," he said.

The project was jointly launched by the Qinghai University and the Beijing Genomics Institute's Shenzhen branch (BGI Shenzhen) in April this year.

In addition to Tibetan antelopes, scientists are working to sequence the genomes of penguins and polar bears in the project.

"Sequencing the Tibetan antelope genome also lays the genetic foundation for us to carry out plateau life sciences studies, but it is only the first step," said Gerili, vice president of the Qinghai University and standing director of the International Society for Mountain Medicine.

"We will further identify the functors on the genome, decode all the genetic information, and explore the genetic basis of Tibetan antelopes' ability to evolve and to adapt to harsh environment," he said.

It is the first genome sequencing of plateau endangered species in the world, he added.

Chinese scientists have contributed to the genome sequencing of a rice paddy, silkworm, hen, pig and giant panda. In October 2007,they finished sequencing the first Han Chinese genome.

Source: Xinhua

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