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Polymerase chain reaction is a cornerstone of molecular biology research. Using short pieces of single-stranded DNA called primers the previously invisible becomes tangible.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Bilbo's Brain?

Australian scientists reported in the journal Nature (2004 Oct 28;431(7012):1055-61) the discovery of a hominid distinct from Homo sapiens and Homo erectus. The abstract can be viewed at PubMed. Homo floresiensis, named after its discovery site Flores, Indonesia, stood about three and a half feet tall. He may have lived as recently as 12,000 years ago.

The Loom, has a nice chronicle of the discovery and ensuing controversy over research materials. The Loom also points us towards soon to be published data that involves imaging of H. floresiensis brain.

“While brains rot quickly, they leave behind marks where some of their folds and blood vessels were. And since the skull forms such a tight seal around the brain, it ends up with roughly the same shape. To get a good look at these details, Falk has helped pioneer the use of CT-scans to visualize the insides of hominid skulls.

The Hobbit skull was scanned in Jakarta at a 1-mm resolution, and the data was then processed at Washington University's medical school. Falk and her colleagues then analyzed the interior of the skull to calculate the size and shape of the brain, and then produced a three-dimension model of it.”

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