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Kangaroo genes linked to humans

world Updated: Nov 18, 2008 20:51 IST

A landmark Australian research, which has successfully mapped the genome of kangaroos, has suggested that kangaroos are genetically similar to humans.

"There are a few differences, we have a few more of this, a few less of that, but they are the same genes and a lot of them are in the same order," said Professor Jenny Graves, outgoing director of the Australian Research Council Centre for Excellence for Kangaroo Genomics (KanGO).

The scientist stressed early findings have helped explain genetic puzzles such as the sex determination gene and the origin of human blood proteins.

"Essentially it's the same houses on a street being rearranged somewhat," he stressed.

Graves said kangaroo genomics has already helped identify the gene, SRY, which determines the sex of a baby and has overturned theories on how blood proteins, known as globins, formed.

"In fact there are great chunks of the [human] genome sitting right there in the kangaroo genome," Graves was quoted as saying by the ABC Science online today.

Graves, of the Australian National University, said marsupial genomics are important in understanding and identifying the role of human genes because marsupials diverged from other mammal species about 148 million years ago.

The genome of Australia's largest marsupial, the kangaroo, was mapped after more than four years of intensive research.