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Dean's Lecture by prof. Matthew Collins

  • Prof. M. Collins
Thursday 23 November 2017
Van Steenis building
Einsteinweg 2
2333 CC Leiden
Central hall

Proteins in Bioarchaeology: the first thing?

The recent success of Ancient DNA (aDNA) research is an accidental byproduct of the failure of DNA sequencing technology.  Biomedical sciences have so far failed to deliver cheap, reliable ways to sequence long strands of DNA.
For modern DNA this means the beautiful long chains of sequence need to be sheared to be read. aDNA? Not so much. As everyone became used to generating short sequences, all could share on a common cause in developing tools to index, assemble and analyse the short fragments of data.
Able to ride on a wave of technological refinement aDNA has made remarkable strides in a short space of time, forming part of Kristian Kristiansen's 'third scientific revolution' in archaeology. Proteins? Not so much. 

Proteins are abundant in plants and the most abundant biochemicals in most animals.  Proteins play a key role in nutrition but are most commonly recovered archaeologically as structural tissues in bone, teeth, antler and ivory. Seeds, skins, leather, fibres, silk, fur and wool and glues are all rich sources of protein, widely exploited but less commonly preserved.
Proteins are more robust than DNA but less informative. If DNA is an encyclopedia, then proteins are a mere newspaper. A summary of recent activity, less information, but more local colour.
However, the same technological transition which has occurred in DNA has also occurred in proteins. Now instead of trying to sequence long pure strands of protein directly, modern 'sequencing' technologies pattern match short peptides which have been deliberately fragmented.  This means that we are now in a position to exploit proteins in archaeology, and the lecture will survey where we are and consider future directions.

The Dean’s Lecture will be preceded by a presentation of her research by dr. Amanda Henry.

There will be drinks afterwards. All are wellcome!

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