Under the heading of 'news you never knew you wanted to hear but were subconsciously missing out on': experts in the US have produced the first DNA barcode of the Oriental plane--that's a tree--that is believed to be a direct descendant of the tree Hippokrátēs taught his students under.

The Archaeology News Network reports that this undertaking was part of the DNA Barcode of Life Project, which aims to create a database of barcodes from every species on Earth. So far, more than 200,000 samples have been collected.

Each barcode comes from a specific specimen that is stored at a museum or similar permanent repository that provides access to research. The raw DNA data is also publicly available.

"The idea of a barcode is that you can go back and find the organism that it came from. So the original can be consulted a hundred years from now," says Dr Driskell, who manages the Smithsonian's Laboratories of Analytical Biology, which carried out the barcoding.

The Hippocrates Tree at the National Library of Medicine has become the source of the first barcode for the Oriental plane tree species.

The lifeline of the tree is a complicated one; the original tree died long ago, but the tree that stood in its place for centuries was believed to be its direct descendant. One of its cuttings was presented to the National Library of Medicine near Washington DC (part of the NIH--the National Institutes of Health) when it opened in 1962. In 1990, however, the tree that had emerged from this cutting got sick, and the botanical and scientific circles rallied to nurse the tree back to health. By 2003, it became clear this would be in vein, and NIH chief landscape architect Lynn Mueller began a desperate quest to find ways to clone the tree and save one of the few tangible links to Hippokrátēs in the US.

After many failed attempts to nurse cutting from the tree to health at a variety of nurseries around the US, Mueller contacted the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive in Michigan where experts managed to produce several clones. Last year the National Library of Medicine tree was pronounced dead and felled. The DNA used to produce the barcode was extracted from the dead tree's wood, just under the bark. April 25th, one of the dead tree's clones was dedicated and planted in the same spot as the original tree, completing yet another circle of death and rebirth from the ashes.

Hippokrátēs, often called the 'father of modern medicine' invented the idea that people with the same disease exhibit similar symptoms which produced similar outcomes. His book, Prognosis, was the first to compare cases in an organised study and remains the basis of the theory of modern medical diagnosis.

"I'm sure that Hippocrates would have been fascinated by the DNA Barcode Project and I think he would have been very excited about how DNA comparison and other modern methods are being used to better understand and ultimately treat human disease," said Dr David Lipman, director of the National Library of Medicine's National Center for Biotechnology Information.

The young tree lives on healthy and happily, and through this process of barcoding, we have preserved yet another link to the ancient Hellenic past of our society.