Father of genetics Gregor Mendel’s DNA being analysed by scientists
Scientists from Brno’s Masaryk University are set to carry out research into the DNA of the “father of genetics”, Augustinian friar Gregor Mendel. The project is taking place ahead of next year’s 200th anniversary of Mendel’s birth.
The remains of Gregor Johann Mendel were already exhumed from the tomb he shares with several other Augustinian friars in June of this year, after the order granted permission.
Juan Provecho, a delegate of the Augustinians in the Czech Republic, told Czech Television that the decision was made in light of the upcoming 200 anniversary of Mendel’s birth next year.
“We sent the request to our headquarters in Rome. They agreed. We wanted to do something truly unique and interesting on the occasion.”
Since then, the team of scientists has collected several DNA samples from Mendel’s bones, which they will now analyse and attempt to process his entire genome.
Dr Omar Šerý from the University’s Department of Biochemistry told Czech Television that this will, for example, make it possible to discover which diseases Mendel was prone to.
“Nowadays we are able tell from such skeletal remains whether the person had an increased risk of thrombosis, if they were lactose intolerant, or if they had predispositions to celiac disease and hypertension.”
Reports in the Czech media suggest that Mendel’s remains are currently located in the Central European Institute of Technology (CEITEC) in Brno and will be returned to their tomb in the city’s Central Cemetery in November. CEITEC spokeswoman Ester Jarour neither confirmed nor denied this, but said that more information will be disclosed at a special press conference in November.
Both Brno City Hall and the Augustinian Order are preparing major celebrations for next year’s July anniversary of Mendel’s birth. Planned events include a concert by internationally renowned artists, the reconstruction of Mendel’s greenhouse in which he conducted his genetic research on plants and an international Mendel Genetics Conference.
Deputy Mayor of Brno Petr Hladík told Czech Radio that the city and associated partners have also set up a CZK 10 million tender for the construction of a statue to the father of genetics on Mendel Square.
“Mendel is Brno’s greatest citizen. The global context of his legacy is unique. This is why we believe that the eyes of the world will be on Brno in July 2022.”
Gregor Johann Mendel was born in a German-speaking family in the Silesian part of the Austrian Empire, in what is today the Czech Republic, on July 20, 1822. After becoming a monk, Mendel spent most of his life in the Augustinian St Thomas's Abbey in Brno. He used the abbey’s 2 hectares of land to conduct hybridisation experiments on plants and eventually published his work in 1866. While not appreciated at first, Mendel’s work would be rediscovered decades later and Mendelian inheritance would become one of the core foundations of genetics.