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A Greek Scientist Studying Mammoths

eleftheria palkopoulouAn international scientific team of researchers from the United States, Russia, Canada and Sweden led by Greek scientist Dr. Eleftheria Palkopoulou was able to sequence the complete genome of a woolly mammoth.

Mammoths, cousins to our modern elephants, have been extinct for thousands of years. But some geneticists envision that the woolly mammoth might be able to walk the Earth once again. However, the Greek researcher, Eleftheria Palkopoulou appears very cautious.

“Most scientific studies to date, analyzed the mammoth’s mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited exclusively from the mother and thus provides limited information for only part of their population. In our research, we published, for the first time, the entire nuclear genome of the mammoth, which is inherited from both parents, and thus provides a more representative picture of the entire population. Only with such genetic information we will be able to thoroughly examine history of the population of mammoths until their extinction,” she said, during a recent interview.

Her team’s study was published in the renowned biology journal, Current Biology, while the study’s subject was widely discussed in the media.

Eleftheria Palkopoulou was born in 1984 and graduated from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki Biology Department in 2006. She continued with her postgraduate studies on biology at Uppsala University in Sweden, and got her PhD in Systematic Zoology from the University of Stockholm. Her research was conducted at the Swedish Museum of Natural History, with an emphasis on palaeogenetics, namely the use of genetic tools to better study the findings of paleontology, in particular mammoths.

Since the beginning of May 2015 Dr. Palkopoulou has moved to the laboratory of the famous geneticist David Reich, at the Medical School Department of Genetics of Harvard University in the United States, where she works as a postdoctoral fellow.

Dr. Palkopoulou also noted that she misses her family and she would like to return to Greece. “But I am glad to have the opportunity to live in other countries and I really enjoy the type of research I do,” she concluded.

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