Scientist map draft version of date palm's genome

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Washington, September 16 (ANI): Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College (WCMC) in Qatar have mapped a draft version of the date palm genome, unlocking many of its genetic secrets.

"We have generated a draft DNA sequence and initial assembly of the date palm using the most advanced technology," said Joel Malek, director of the Genomics Laboratory at WCMC-Q.

Genetic information about the date palm is extremely valuable to researchers who are working to improve fruit yield and quality and to better understand susceptibility and resistance to disease.

"This is an important step for our biomedical research program," said Khaled Machaca, professor of physiology and biophysics and associate dean for basic science research.

"It clearly demonstrates the feasibility and success of the most advanced genomics technologies in Qatar and represents a milestone towards establishing Qatar and Weill Cornell as a regional research center of excellence. In addition, this achievement by the WCMC-Q research team holds great promise for the application of the genomics technology to a better understanding of biomedical problems," he added.

The date palm sequencing work was a proof of concept study, according to Malek, who established the genomics laboratory last year.

The goal was to establish and validate the capabilities of the core lab for large-scale genomics projects.

To produce the draft map, the WCMC-Q researchers used a next generation sequencing approach, which Malek says offers data quality between that of the expressed sequence tag (EST) method and the traditional whole-genome mapping method.

"We were able to develop a relatively unbiased view of the gene space of the entire date palm plant at a fraction of the cost and in a much shorter period of time," said Malek. Using this approach, which takes advantage of the lower repetitive DNA in the date palm gene regions, we have increased the publicly available knowledge of the date palm gene by about 1000 fold," he added.

Date palm trees play a significant role in agriculture throughout the Middle East, Northern Africa and Pakistan.

Malek said that he and his colleagues will continue to improve the draft sequence and publish their data. Meanwhile, they are making the information available to scientists and researchers around the world. (ANI)

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