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Archbishop Desmond Tutu's DNA Could Pave Way for Medical Cures

by VR Sreeraman on  February 19, 2010 at 1:01 PM Research News   - G J E 4
 Archbishop Desmond Tutu's DNA Could Pave Way for Medical Cures
Four Kalahari Desert bushmen and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, from the ethnic Bantu group of southern Africa, have helped discover the first indigenous DNA sequence.
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Dr Vanessa Hayes of the University of New South Wales was studying HIV in Africa, when she noted that the southern African population was not included in the genetic data base.

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"It was a frustrating way to work as a scientist and we were keen to move the research forward to understand the disease globally," ABC Science quoted Hayes as saying.

She added: "[It is impossible] if we don't have the tools and for the tools, we need the DNA sequence."

However, Hayes along with a team of scientists from Penn State University in the United States, spent two years with the bushmen and Tutu to find the first indigenous DNA sequence.

Hayes briefed: "The men that participated in the study were all well into their 80s, with the Archbishop being the youngest.

"These are all healthy men - we know which diseases the Archbishop has, we have his full medical history - so we can start now by putting the pieces of the puzzle together."

The scientists claim that these indigenous people, who have now been added to the existing human genome database, are amongst the most genetically diverse in the world, with 1.3 million new genetic variants.

Hayes insists that her findings will open the door for crucial medical breakthroughs.

She explained: "I like to use the analogy of a book. Before we had a book, everything we were doing was very European-centric. It was great we were making new discoveries but it was still only the book.

"Now what we are doing by adding the indigenous genomes from southern Africa - that represents the ancient history of all mankind - we're now starting to make the book into a real novel.

"We can correct the spelling mistakes, we were able to correct the sentences. We were not only able to do that, we were able to open the door of the library and read a whole shelf.

"[We were able to] add information that is now going to help us globally to understand disease and not restrict our research to just European populations."

The study appears in the journal Nature.

Source: ANI
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