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Sperm analyzed, one by one

Close look at DNA reveals basic processes of sex cell

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12:20pm, July 19, 2012

Some scientists really throw themselves into their research, but Stanford University biophysicist Stephen Quake has taken the all-in approach to a whole new level.

Using his sperm, Quake and colleagues compiled the first-ever genetic blueprint for a single sperm cell. The results shed new light on molecular processes such as mutation and recombination in humans, Quake and his colleagues report in the July 20 Cell.

Figuring out how often humans make mistakes in copying DNA so that single DNA units are changed, or mutated, is important for a variety of reasons, including figuring out how long ago humans diverged from other species, says Laure Ségurel, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Chicago. “Every calculation is based on this mutation rate,” she says.

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