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Kangaroo hops in line for genome sequencing

SAN FRANCISCO, Tues., June 8, 2004 The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), today announced a partnership with the Melbourne-based Australian Genome Research Facility Ltd. (AGRF) to sequence the DNA of one of Australia's best-known animals: a member of the kangaroo family known as the tammar wallaby.

"This scientific collaboration between the United States and Australia represents another important step in our quest to gain a better understanding of the human genome," said NHGRI Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. "As we build on the success of the Human Genome Project, it has been increasingly clear that one of the best tools for identifying crucial elements in the human genome is to compare it with the genomes of a wide variety of other animals."

Comparing the human genome sequence with those of other organisms, such as the roundworm, mouse or kangaroo, enables scientists to identify regions of similarity and difference that can provide clues about the structure and function of genes vital to human health and development. The type of kangaroo chosen for sequencing is the tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii), a relatively small member of the kangaroo family found on islands along Australia's southern and western coasts. Researchers are studying the tammar wallaby to gain insights applicable to human reproduction and development; evolution; anatomy and physiology of mammals; and disease susceptibility. The kangaroo will be the second marsupial to have its genome sequenced; several months ago, NHGRI approved plans to sequence a gray short-tailed, South American opossum (Monodelphis domestica).

"We expect the data generated by the kangaroo genome project will prove to be extremely valuable for medical research, as well as agricultural research, around the globe. In addition, the project is an exciting opportunity for Australian scientists to build relationships with the Natio
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Contact: Geoff Spencer
spencerg@mail.nih.gov
301-402-0911
NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute
8-Jun-2004


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