EAS holds fifth public lecture

Dr. Garrett Hellenthal Dr. Garrett Hellenthal

The Ethiopian Academy of Sciences held its fifth public lecture for this Ethiopian year entitled “The genetic structure and history of Ethiopia” at the Addis Ababa Institute of Technology (AAIT) hall on 9 March, 2017.

Prepared by two Ph.D. holders from the University College of London (UCL), Dr. Saioa Lopez and Dr. Garrett Hellenthal, the presentation reported new results from a long-standing collaboration between researchers from the United Kingdom, Ethiopia and elsewhere, to study the genetic information of over 1,100 Ethiopian individuals representing over 70 different ethnic backgrounds.

In his opening remarks, Professor Endeshaw Bekele introduced the presenters from UCL, giving participants a detailed picture of their profiles.

Presenting the findings, Dr. Garrett Hellenthal stated that our genetic code contains detailed information about our ancestral origins stressing the fact that the DNA carried by any two people in the world is exactly the same about 99.5% of the time.

According to Dr. Garrett, one of the major findings of the study was that Ethiopian peoples are more genetically similar to each other than to non-Ethiopians.

Another finding Dr. Garrett reported was that genetic makeup is more influenced by geography than ethnicity and language.

The third finding stated by the presenter states: when looking at different occupations within the same ethnic group, genetic differences tone down as one studies ancestry suggesting that interbreeding has abated in the recent past.

When considering the DNA from the Mota man, fossil of a person who lived in Ethiopia 4,500 years ago, it is observed that there is inclusion of Euro-Asian genetic makeup which decreases as one goes from North to South. Accordingly, Dr. Garrett reportedthat the DNA from Ethiopians in the North East, South and Central parts of the country match that of people found in Yemen or the Middle East in general.

On the other hand, he went on to say, the DNA of Ethiopians from the South Western part of the country matches with people in West Africa indicating the migration of people at some point in history.

Following the presentation of findings was a discussion session that drew the participation of numerous people in attendance. One repeated comment raised from academicians attending the public lecture was that the research validates oral history and provides it with a scientific proof.

The Ethiopian Academy of Sciences organizes a public lecture on the last Thursday of every month in a bid to foster scientific culture and innovation. The topic for the next public lecture to be held on April 6 is “Stem-cells research: A revolution in medical research? Presenting the lecture will be Dr. Mekuria Lakew, an immunologist at the Addis Ababa University (AAU).

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