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New centre for old bones

Ancient DNA will explain human migrations, mass extinctions and maybe even ebola and bird flu

Scientists move one step closer to explaining the mysteries of mass-extinctions and the pre-history of humanity, as the University of Copenhagen’s new centre for GeoGenetic opens today Tuesday 7 September,

Center for GeoGenetics is located at the university’s Museum of Natural History.

The new centre, which bridges the gap between the humanities and natural sciences, will be led by world-renowned genetic researcher Eske Willerslev.

Rewriting history

Last year Willerslev shot to fame when he was the first to map the genome of a long-dead human being. He has high hopes for the impact of the newly opened centre:

»There is no doubt that we will rewrite world history over the next five years, with regard to a number of points. This is because we are able to look more precisely at the past«,says Eske Willerslev in a university press release.

»The unique thing about the centre is that we build bridges between the natural sciences and the humanities. There are 55 employees, including DNA researchers, geologists, archaeologists, physicists and palaeontologists,« he continues.

Ancient DNA, modern applications

Although the researchers will be looking into the DNA of long-dead animals and humans, their work will have practical applications in the present day treatment of illnesses and vira, says Willerslev.

The precise genetic research will, for example, give a better understanding of how the body reacts to the ebola virus or bird flu.

Topics studied by the centre include the early peopling of the Americas, Late Quaternary megafauna extinctions, human migrations into the Arctic northern extremes, as well as climate and environmental changes in the polar regions.

See the centre’s website here.

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