Scientists Have Big Plans for da Vinci's DNA ... If They Can Find It

His remains are believed to be in the Chapel of Saint-Hubert
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 6, 2016 5:08 AM CDT
Scientists Have Big Plans for da Vinci's DNA
A self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci, circa 1512.   (AP Photo/Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities; Biblioteca Reale)

It's a project scientists say Leonardo da Vinci would have loved. Researchers plan to sequence the DNA of the Renaissance genius to discover more about his amazing abilities, and possibly even what he really looked like, the Independent reports. Da Vinci, however, wasn't trapped in amber Jurassic Park-style, so the team is going to have to do a lot of work to track down usable samples of DNA. His remains are believed to be in the Chapel of Saint-Hubert at the Chateau d'Amboise, France, but the exact location is unknown and the researchers will need to test da Vinci relatives, as well as get permission to search for his bones, the Telegraph reports. Another source of what is being called "the real da Vinci" code could be skin cells left in his artwork.

The scientists are to look for DNA in the "Adoration of the Magi" painting, which is currently being restored. They may also speak to owners of his journals, including Bill Gates and Queen Elizabeth II. They hope the project will lead to advances in extracting DNA from old fingerprints and similar sources—and they plan to have findings to unveil by 2019, which will be the 500th anniversary of the master's death. "Everyone in the group believes that Leonardo, who devoted himself to advancing art and science, who delighted in puzzles, and whose diverse talents and insights continue to enrich society five centuries after his passing, would welcome the initiative of this team—indeed would likely wish to lead it were he alive today," says Leonardo Project spokesman Jesse Ausubel of Rockefeller University. (Other researchers have managed to track down dozens of people they believe are living descendants of da Vinci.)

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