The report of CBOL's workshop on recovering DNA from formalin-fixed biological samples is now available. The report of the workshop "Path to effective recovering of DNA from formalin-fixed biological samples in natural history collections" was just issued by National Academies Press. A free pdf version can be downloaded from http://www.nap.edu/catalog/11712.html
In the past two decades, advancements in DNA-sequencing have enabled new research possibilities in disciplines ranging from evolutionary biology to biomedical sciences to forensics. Taxonomists and systematists use DNA sequence information to clarify our understanding of biodiversity, to refine our ability to distinguish closely related species, and to study relationships within and among species. Natural history collections in museums and academic institutions contain a wealth of specimens that can contribute to these and other research challenges.
Many of the specimens in these collections were fixed in formalin and subsequently stored in formalin or ethanol. Fixation in formalin stabilizes and preserves the anatomical structure of specimens, and storage in formalin or ethanol prevents long-term degradation by microorganisms. However, these fixation and storage processes interact with DNA in museum specimens and have made DNA extraction and analysis from these specimens difficult.
On May 8-9, 2006, a group of experts gathered at the U.S. National Academy of Science for a workshop to discuss the future of DNA recovery from formalin-preserved specimens in natural history collections.
Participants included chemists, biophysicists, biochemists, molecular biologists, bioinformaticists, and researchers and managers of natural history collections interested in obtaining DNA from their specimens.
They examined past attempts of DNA recovery and discussed the research needed to develop more efficient and cost-effective protocols for DNA recovery from formalin-fixed specimens. If the research directions suggested by the workshop participants prove successful, then the sequence information contained in many rare or difficult-to-collect species in natural history collections would be made available for diverse lines of research.
Interest in this project was catalyzed by the Consortium for the Barcode of Life, and received financial support from Museum of Comparative Zoology of Harvard University, National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, New England Biolabs, Sigma-Aldrich, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency, and CBOL.
Scott E. Miller, Ph.D.
Senior Program Officer
Office of the Under Secretary for Science
MRC 009 PO Box 37012
Washington DC 20013-7012
Office 202 633 5135
Lab 202 633 1036
Fax 202 633 8942
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