Because it is known that formalin induces DNA fragmentation and nucleotide alteration, the workshop focused primarily on the extent and process of DNA damage and on DNA recovery from formalin-flxed samples stored in formalin or alcohol. The brieflng material distributed to participants specifled that some of the lessons learned from the protocol development for DNA recovery from formalin-flxed, paraffln-embedded biomedical specimens may be examined to assess whether they could be applicable to museum specimens. However, discussions on how to enhance protocols for extracting DNA from formalin-flxed, paraffln-embedded samples and discussions on extraction of ancient DNA were beyond the scope of the meeting.

To plan the workshop, the National Research Council appointed a steering committee of experts in nucleic acid chemistry, structural chemistry, biomedical sciences, molecular biology, and biodiversity (Appendix B). The steering committee had several teleconferences to discuss the goals of the workshop with the sponsors, to identify workshop participants, and to discuss the workshop format. The workshop convened May 8-9, 2006, at the Keck Center of the National Academies. The participants were the steering committee members; representatives of sponsoring agencies; and others invited because of their expertise in biochemistry and biophysics of nucleic acids, organic chemistry, DNA repair proteins, optimization of DNA extraction, single-molecule sequencing, bioinformatics, mass spectrometry, DNA damage and repair, molecular biology, and taxonomy and systematics (Appendix B). The group included experts who could shed light on why DNA extraction from formalin-flxed samples had been mostly ineffective or unsuccessful, those who knew the methodologies for studying DNA damage, and “end users” who were attempting to obtain sequence information from formalin-flxed samples for their research. Participants discussed the questions outlined in the statement of task, and as a group developed a list of suggestions for how to move toward effective recovery of DNA from formalin-flxed samples in natural history collections.

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