The National Human Genome Research Institute
(NHGRI) has issued a press release
announcing the release of the first draft version of the chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) genome sequence to the publicly accessible NIH database, GenBank
. NHGRI teams from the US Broad Institute (Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University), and the Genome Sequencing Center in Washington assembled the genome sequence and have also produced an alignment with the human sequence. An international team of scientists, led by NHGRI researchers, are performing comparative analyses of the two genomes, expected to yield important functional insights due to the similarity between the two species. Chimps are genetically the most closely related species to humans, and the chimp and human genomes differ by only about 1.2%. These sequence differences must account for the major differences in physiology and disease susceptibility and pathology observed for the two species. It is hoped that comparative analysis of the genomes will allow the identification of key human genes relevant to disease and evolution.