[Taxacom] Report of CBOL Workshop on DNA and formalin

Miller, Scott MillerS at si.edu
Thu Aug 17 08:19:09 CDT 2006


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


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

Smithsonian Institution

MRC 009 PO Box 37012                                            

Washington DC 20013-7012                                       


Office 202 633 5135

Lab     202 633 1036

Fax     202 633 8942

E-mail millers at si.edu

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