Scientists delve into DNA of Africa
ACROSS Africa lies a treasure trove that is helping in the fight against disease and even telling the story of our earliest origins.
This treasure trove is carried in the cells of every living African but only recently have scientists began unlocking its secrets. It is the double helix of DNA and Africa has become the next frontier in genetic research.
This interest is because humans originated from Africa.
“There is a gap in what we know about human genetic variation, and data from Africa can close this gap,” Dr Michelle Skelton of UCT, who is part of the of the Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa )Administrative Co-ordinating Centre, said.
H3Africa is a health and genomics research consortium that spans 32 countries, and includes 48 projects. The initiative began in 2012.
“The rest of the world is actually populated by a subset of people who came from Africa, and migrated out of the continent in several waves from roughly 70 000 years ago, Professor Michele Ramsay, of Wits University, who is also involved with H3Africa, said.
Besides following the paths of ancient migratory routes, genetics is providing insight into diseases and how they affect different populations.
“What we want to understand is the relationship between genetic variation and disease,” Ramsay said.
To collect data, a genome chip has been developed by the H3Africa Consortium. It was “designed to detect specific genetic variations that are unique to Africans,” Skelton said.
THE 12th Meeting of the H3Africa Consortium held in Kigali, Rwanda, from September 16 to September 23.