Establishment of an ancient DNA laboratory at the Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), Department of Biosciences, UiO

The new lab will be operational within the next few months. Its total cost, including equipment, is 18 million NOK (2.2 million EUR).

Working with ancient DNA (aDNA). Illustration photo by researcher Stephanie Hänsch.

Update: This news story was published in 2014. For updated information, go to the aDNA website!


Special facilities following rigorous criteria are required

When dealing with ancient samples, DNA is present in low amounts, often being degraded and damaged, and very prone to contamination with modern DNA. Thus, special facilities following rigorous criteria are required for dealing with historic and prehistoric material – the sources of ancient DNA also referred to as aDNA.

Strong support from the University

The new lab established by the Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), Department of Biosciences, will be operational within the next few months. Its total cost is 16 million NOK, provided by the University of Oslo (UiO), plus approximately 2 million NOK in equipment - the latter provided by a grant through the Museum of Cultural History at the University.

Great news for Norwegian research

-"This is great news for Norwegian research", says professor Nils Chr. Stenseth. -"We will now be on the international cutting edge in this field, and that will make Norway an even more attractive place to work for world leading scientists."

A multidisciplinary lab

This new ancient DNA lab will provide excellent opportunities to a broad spectrum of researchers using aDNA for their work.

-"The new lab will be a great asset for research projects at the Natural History Museum", says the museum´s Research Director Fridtjof Mehlum. "We are extracting DNA from subfossil bones, samples from permafrost, and several hundred years old specimens from botanical and zoological collections". 

-"The lab will be able to process many different samples with almost no limitation from human and animal remains, sediments, plants, coprolites or any other source", asserts Dr. Barbara Bramanti.

The new lab will not only be a great asset to biologists, but also many other disciplines outside biology; hence, the establishment of this lab has been strongly supported by a broad range of units across the entire University of Oslo – and the broader scientific community in Norway and beyond.

The coupling of the new laboratory with the most advanced sequencing facilities found at the CEES and the Norwegian Sequencing Centre (NSC) will profoundly strengthen the University of Oslo.

Plague research

One of the immediate reasons for the development of this new aDNA lab is the work on the evolution of the Yersinia pestis, the causative agent of plague, and other pathogens; however, other projects are already planning to utilise these facilities. Dr. Barbara Bramanti will be leading the work within the lab – among others linked to her European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant (AdG), MedPlag project The medieval plagues: ecology, transmission modalities and routes of the infections. This project will use multifaceted approaches, molecular (aDNA) analyses of pathogens and human beings, modelling and simulations of ecological factors in order to understand the dynamics of different plague epidemics, routes of the plague, their origins and the factors that led to the major pandemics.

New possibilities

-"I am really looking forward to start working in the new lab", says researcher Stephanie Hänsch in the MedPlag project. She contributed in designing the lab. -"We are not the first to work on ancient DNA in Norway, but this lab will make it possible to do research that we have so far not been able to do here."

Oslo, May 15th, 2014

Samples under UV light © Stephanie Hänsch.Samples under UV light. Illustration photo © Stephanie Hänsch.

Published May 15, 2014 2:42 PM - Last modified June 27, 2017 11:41 AM