King Richard III to Have Genome Sequenced to Learn Ancestry, Health

Image: King Richard III to Have Genome Sequenced to Learn Ancestry, Health

Wednesday, 12 Feb 2014 05:32 PM

By Ken Mandel

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The genetic code of King Richard III, the medieval monarch who died in a 1485 battle, will be sequenced to learn about his ancestry and health.

The king was found buried beneath a parking lot in Leicester, England, in 2012, and scientists hope the project will reveal the long-missing ruler's features, such as the color of his hair and eyes, and discover genetic indicators for any health conditions he suffered.

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Richard III, who has already been immortalized by William Shakespeare, died at the Battle of Bosworth when he was 32.

"It should give us an insight into his genetic make-up, his predisposition to disease," Turi King, the geneticist who will lead the genome project, said in a statement, according to CNN. "We are in the midst of a new age of genetic research, with the ability to sequence entire genomes from ancient individuals and with them, those of pathogens that may have caused infectious disease. Sequencing the genome of Richard III is a hugely important project that will help to teach us not only about him, but ferment discussion about how our DNA informs our sense of identity, our past and our future."

After his death, Richard's body was buried in a makeshift grave in Leicester, but the location was lost. His skeleton was discovered in 2011 by archaeologists in a city council parking lot, led there by clues in historical documents. His bones showed that he had scoliosis, a curvature of the spine, and battle wounds.

It was also determined that the king likely suffered from roundworms after the soil around his pelvis tested positive for evidence of the intestinal parasites.

The genome sequencing is expected to cost about $165,000, and is being funded by the Wellcome Trust, the Leverhulme Trust, and Alec Jeffreys, a professor of genetics at the University of Leicester, and the man who developed genetic fingerprinting.

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