Scientists decode genome of Chinese hamster

Scientists have successfully sequenced the genome of the Chinese hamster, paving way for advances in the pharmaceutical industry.

Berlin: Scientists have successfully sequenced the genome of the Chinese hamster, paving way for advances in the pharmaceutical industry.

The Chinese hamster supplies the cell cultures used by the pharmaceutical industry to produce biopharmaceutical products such as antibodies used in medicine.

Genome researchers from Bielefeld University`s Center for Biotechnology (CeBiTec) in Germany headed by Professor Dr Alfred Puhler collaborated with the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna (where the project was headed by Professor Dr Nicole Borth), the Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology (acib), and two pharmaceutical companies: Novartis (in Switzerland) and Pfizer (in the US).

Professor Dr Thomas Noll, Scientific Director of CeBiTec, is confident that the data they have obtained will be of great interest to science and industry.

"In future, the decoded hamster genome will greatly advance the use of cell lines to produce pharmaceuticals," said Noll.

The genome of the Chinese hamster is composed of eleven pairs of chromosomes. Decoding such a large genome calls for the generation of large datasets that then have to be processed with bioinformatics.

To facilitate the resulting data analysis, the researchers in Bielefeld and their colleagues applied a completely new procedure that sorts the single chromosomes of the genome.

The sequencing of the hamster chromosomes was performed by Dr Karina Brinkrolf at CeBiTec.

More than 1.4 billion short DNA sequences were generated with the help of modern instruments for next-generation sequencing.

"The major challenge in this project was subsequently piecing these short DNA sequences together to form single total sequences of chromosomes," said Puhler.

This work can only be done with powerful computers.

"We had to complete the new CeBiTec computer cluster and apply new software before we could determine the genome sequence," said bioinformatics expert, Dr Alexander Goesmann, who also worked on the project.

With approximately 2.3 billion bases, the magnitude of the genome sequence of the Chinese hamster is comparable to that of the human genome, researchers said.

"The decoding of the hamster genome successfully concludes a major CeBiTec project. The hamster sequence is available in the public domain and can be used for research throughout the world," Puhler said.

The study was published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.


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