Bees Join The Genome Club

18 January 2004
Posted by Chris Smith.

Bees have become the latest organism, and the third insect after fruit flies and mosquitos, to have their genetic blueprint decoded. A team of scientists in Texas led by Dr. Richard Gibbs, took 1 year to complete the work which cost 8 million dollars. The honey bee, or Apis mellifera to give it its latin name, has a DNA blueprint one tenth the size of our own. So far the work has helped scientists to discover new smell receptors that bees use when looking for food, and researchers are hoping to unlock the secret of how bees' genes control their very organised social behaviour. Researchers also hope that analysing bee DNA will help them to discover ways to breed bees that work harder, are better able to resist disease and have less painful stings, and there may also be advantages for medicine too because bees produce antibiotics and venom that could provide new classes of drugs.

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