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Korean team becomes world’s 1st to decode red bat’s genome
  • By Constance Williams
  • Published 2017.07.12 11:46
  • Updated 2017.07.12 13:14
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UNIST Professor Park Jong-hwa and researchers at the Korean Genomics Industrialization and Commercialization Center (KOGIC) announced Wednesday they had decoded the genome of the red bat and completed comparative analysis with other organisms.

There is a genetic basis for conservation and restoration of endangered red bats, called myotis rufoniger and also known as the golden bat. In particular, the genetic variation of the long-living red bats is expected to contribute to research on human longevity.

Professor Ryu Deok-young of the Seoul National University Veterinary School jointly conducted the research in collaboration with the National Research Institute of Culture Heritage. Its result appeared in the international journal PLoS ONE, on July 5.

These researchers became the first in the world to decode the genome in Korea. Bats are the longest living mammals in the world compared to body size, but this time they have identified genetic mutations in their long life, the ability to fly and produce and hear ultrasound. The genes of the wild bat can provide important clues about human life and disease, according to a press release issued by the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology.

The successful analysis of Korean red bats’ genomes can contribute to the research of longevity and other medical issues, researchers say.

The red bats are a rare creature with only 450 to 500 animals identified in Korea. It is designated as the 1st-degree endangered wildlife and natural monument No. 452. In this study, DNA samples were obtained from red bats found dead in the Gosu Cave in North Chungcheong Province, and the genome was decoded. The team analyzed the genetic mutations of the red bats by comparing the results with the genomes of seven bats and six terrestrial mammals.

In the genome of red bats, researchers found genetic mutations related to the color of the bat and the strong characteristic of arsenic (As). Bats are black, but they have a variety of colors. The researchers found a genetic mutation that caused the red color of the genome of another animal to be compared with the genome of a red bat. The red bats also found mutations in the arsenic (As) resistance gene sequence, providing an evolutionary clue that red bats can survive in cave environments contaminated with heavy metals.

The study also found that the population of red bats decreased from the end of the last ice age. The genome of every organism contains a record of the history and number of individuals in the past evolution of that organism. The genome is a history book of species and the analysis showed that the population of red bats belonging to red bats plummeted from 1,000-5,000 years ago.

"The biggest reason for the rapid decline in the population of bats is probably the destruction of their habitat due to the emergence of humans," said Park Young-joon, the lead author of the study. "We need an additional bat genome study to determine if the decline in bats identified in this study is overall to the bats.”

Professor Park agreed. “Bats are biologically as exciting as whales, and as longevity animals, they are precious biological resources for humans," he said. “We need to gather genetic information of these living resources nationally and make it big data. We want to study longevity genetic information more deeply in bat genome, ultimately to utilize for cancer treatment and extension of life."


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