The SciLifeLab Ancient DNA facility is now up, running and taking on projects. To celebrate this and inform users of the possibilities of using the facility, a symposium was held September 24-25.
In short, ancient DNA analysis provides insight into traits, ancestry, and migration of humans, animals and plants.
“Ancient DNA is a time capsule that provides a unique opportunity to understand the past. The SciLifeLab Ancient DNA facility provides state-of-the-art laboratories and computational analysis to support archaeological or biological investigations. Our goal is to provide access to ancient DNA analysis for a wide range of users”, says Magnus Lundgren (UU), Head of the Ancient DNA facility.
As part of its launch, the SciLifeLab Ancient DNA facility arranged a symposium with an overview of the field, in-depth presentations of ancient DNA projects, a panel debate, a public lecture, social activities, and a symposium dinner. The facility has now recruited the much needed staff as well as established routines and is ready to take on user projects.
Challenges when analyzing ancient DNA includes degradation of the material – DNA diminishes with time and due to environmental factors, as well as contamination. Anders Götherström (SU), Director of the Stockholm node of the facility, describes the early days of ancient DNA analysis as everything but perfect.
“It was hard to know if you were sequencing an old human or contamination from someone in the lab. I heard about some geneticists who thought they were sequencing dinosaurs but were sequencing the turkey on their sandwich”.
The technology has vastly improved, but you can also take measures to avoid contamination. As E-Jean Tan (UU), Research Engineer at the facility, explains, you can mitigate contamination with “dedicated clean room laboratories, trained personnel, protective gear, decontamination routines and selection of materials”.
The Ancient DNA facility now aims to provide ancient DNA processing and bioinformatic analysis as a service to academic researchers, government users, museum staff, non-governmental organisations, contract archaeologists and others.