Saudi, Chinese scientists decode Arabian camel DNA

08:44, June 11, 2010      

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Scientists from Saudi Arabia and China have announced that they managed to decode the genome of the Arabian camel, a step that could lead to potential medical breakthroughs, Saudi Arab News newspaper reported Thursday.

Over 20 scientists from King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) and China's Shenzhen-based Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) collaborated on the project that took about four years, according to the report.

The single-humped Arabian camel, Camelus Dromedarius, is now part of selected few mammals whose DNA was decoded. "The Arabian camel today enters a highly exclusive club of selected few mammals which have had their full genome sequenced and analyzed," the two institutions said in a joint statement.

The DNA of the Arabian camel has remarkable similarities to cattle, the statement said, noting that the analyzing of the entire camel genome could lead to a better understanding of the animal's survival ability in the Arabian Peninsula's harsh desert environment.

Dr. Abdulaziz al-Swailem, a senior scientist and policy adviser with KACST, told a press conference in Riyadh on Wednesday the findings of the research show that 57 percent of the camel's genes are shared with humans.

"Because camel and humans have been found to share over half of the same genes, we hope to further research the camel's immunity system which will help in the development of new vaccines for not only improving the camel's health but also unlocking the aspects needed to cure diseases, such as cancer, AIDS, and Hepatitis C," he was quoted by the Saudi paper as telling the conference.

Jian Wang, BGI's director, said the sequencing of the camel genome will contribute to global genomics and post genomics research. "We look forward to further expanding our understanding of the camel's physiological and biochemical characteristics and to bring it to application for the benefit of mankind," he said.



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