Science and Health

Scientists To Sequence Richard III’s DNA

Richard III will be the first such figure to have his DNA sequenced, which will tell scientists about his health, genetics and physical appearance.

Scientists To Sequence Richard III’s DNA

Scientists plan to sequence Richard III's DNA in what will be the first complete sequencing for such a historical figure.

Researchers recovered DNA samples from the monarch's bones, which they first excavated from under a Leicester parking lot in February 2013. 

Lead geneticist Turi King explains this will answer long-held questions about the former King of England.

"I'm going to be able to look at things like was he genetically predisposed to particular diseases? We're going to be able to look at things like eye color, hair color. Things that tell us about what he looked like, to some extent." (Via the University of Leicester)

And while it's not as scientific, King points out a sequencing will confirm another bit of historical uncertainty:

"There are no contemporary portraits of Richard. All the portraits that exist post-date his death by about 40 to 50 years onwards. So it's going to be interesting to see what the genetic information provides in relation to what we know from the portraits." (Via CNN)

The BBC reports the study, at a cost of more than $160,000, is expected to last at least 18 months.

King told the Guardian that's in part because it's not easy to reconstruct DNA from old bones, especially if they're poorly preserved.

"King said it was invariably fragmentary, and it was a question of piecing together and overlaying fragments to complete a jigsaw."

Once Richard’s DNA is sequenced, his remains will be reinterred — though an exact location hasn't been decided yet.

It's the subject of an ongoing lawsuit in London's high court, between the Leicester city council and the Plantagenet Alliance — a group claiming to be descendants of the king. (Via The Guardian)

The Guardian reports Richard III's genetic sequence will be made available to researchers and the public in an online archive.