Monday, February 13, 2006

Scientists Collaborate To Study Population Genetics: Opening Pandora's Box?

Just read this from NST:

Scientists to study population genetics

KOTA BARU, KELANTAN, Sun. Twelve British scientists are collaborating with 23 Malaysian counterparts to study and work on new findings in population genetics here.

The study is being held during a three-day workshop starting tomorrow at the Universiti Sains Malaysia’s (USM) Human Genome Centre here.

This will be the second workshop organised jointly by the British Council with USM since last year, conducted under the International Networking Young Scientists Workshop programme. All the scientists involved are under 35.

British Council Malaysia director Gerry Liston said the workshop would be a platform to facilitate technology and knowledge transfer between local and foreign scientists.

He said they would study the genetic make-up of the Malaysian Orang Asli, the indigenous people of Malaysia and Borneo, as well as animal and plant genetic variations.

Population genetics is the study of genes and markers in the blood. It is often utilised in forensic studies and drug therapy.

By studying a specific population, scientists are able to gain knowledge of the race’s origin, migratory patterns and inherited diseases.

Malaysian workshop co-ordinator, USM Human Genome Centre director Dr Zilfalil Alwi, said the study of populations was immense in Western countries.

Actually, a population genetics study was already done on the Orang Asli and was published in the high-impact scientific journal, NatureScience with the title: "Single, Rapid Coastal Settlement of Asia Revealed by Analysis of Complete Mitochondrial Genomes" by Macaulay et al., published in May 2005. In fact some of our researchers from UPM were also involved. Check out the study's abstract here.

Orang Asli. Source- http://www.malaysiasite.nl/images/oragaslies2.gif

Generall, it was about:

The tracking of lineages of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which is inherited exclusively down the maternal line of descent, from populations around the world—including a small group of aboriginal populations from Malaysia known as the Orang Asli , thought to be the descendants of the first fully modern settlers in Southeast Asia . In addition to focusing on this key population, a further innovation was to analyse complete mtDNA genomes, providing much greater resolution than previous work has been able to muster.

By demonstrating the close similarity of Orang Asli lineages to other Asian populations, and indeed also to Europeans and Aboriginal Australians, tracing back to around 65,000 years ago, the results indicated that, contrary to expectations, all modern non-African populations are derived from a single human group that left Africa via the southern route, along the tropical coast.

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, did we see the findings published on our front page of our mainstream media (MSM)? They would rather print this instead. And will the findings for the study mentioned above be published in the MSM as well? I'm afraid not so, just like how the report on the 'Lost City' in Johor was MIA now...

Now, why was that? It was merely because of the fear of some keris-brandishing and 'You tak suka'-calling people would have nothing to defend for later!

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Instead of just 'raping' their cheeks for DNA, why not also give them some land which they asked for?

Are we really that same after all?

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