•aDNA is the acquisition, extraction, and study of DNA sequences collected and amplified from ancient remains.
•Human aDNA is, therefore, DNA from ancient humans who lived hundreds or even thousands of years ago.
More than 50 scientists from across the globe are converging in the National Museums of Kenya for aDNA workshop.
The aDNA is the acquisition, extraction, and study of DNA sequences collected and amplified from ancient remains.
Human aDNA is, therefore, DNA from ancient humans who lived hundreds or even thousands of years ago.
The workshop that started on Monday is set to run up to Wednesday.
NMK’s Director for National Repository and Research Prof Mary Gikungu and NMK acting Director General Stanvas Ongalo presided over the opening ceremony that is bringing in top scientists from Africa, America and China.
Gikungu said the three-day event is crucial to NMK as it will help disseminate scientific knowledge, which is one of the mandates of NMK.
“We appreciate working with you because we have over 10 million objects,” she said.
Gikungu said collaboration between scientists would help NMK to advance science.
She said there is an Acid Fossil Preparation Lab at NKM, a first of its kind in the region.
Unveiled in 2020, the lab helps process fossils that are preserved in some very hard matrix.
In some cases, we receive or find fossils in the field that are preserved in hard matrices.
NMK is famous for its bones, from fossilised skulls of human ancestors to the fully preserved skeleton of Ahmed, the only elephant protected by presidential decree.
More than 70 hominid fossils have been recovered from the Koobi Fora site, Turkana county, since researchers started work on the site in 1968.
The remains of Tim, the majestic Amboseli elephant, have also been preserved at the museum.
Ongalo said the workshop will help NKM showcase its work.
He said the workshop will help provide a road map for future work.
NMK is a state corporation established by an Act of Parliament, the Museums and Heritage Act 2006. It is a multi-disciplinary institution whose role is to collect, preserve, study, document and present Kenya’s past and present cultural and natural heritage.
The collection is done for the purposes of enhancing knowledge, appreciation, respect and sustainable utilisation of these resources for the benefit of Kenya and the world, for now, and posterity.
Kenya and by extension, NMK was chosen as the ideal location for the workshop as it has the largest human skeletal collection in eastern Africa, and many NMK scientists are engaged in research on genetics and genomics and are therefore very much integrated into the international research community.
aDNA research is one of the most inspiring and informative research fields in human research today with the potential to reveal some previously unknown facets of our species’ history.
Also, ancient genomes can reveal how and when diseases arose and whether we are still vulnerable to them.
NMK's top leadership said the workshop would benefit the country by establishing research collaboration between individual regional scientists and institutions.
Such linkages are crucial in order to establish new projects and minimise research redundancy.
It will also offer an opportunity to regional students to present their maiden research results and further provide a platform for upcoming young scientists to interact with recognised scholars in the relevant fields.
Researchers from universities such as Harvard, American Museums, and African universities, students and researchers from local research institutions and universities are taking part in the workshop.
The workshop will conclude with a lecture for the non-academic public delivered by Prof David Wright a leading scholar in genomic studies from Harvard University.
Key Speakers include David Reich, a professor in the Department of Genetics at the Harvard Medical School, and an associate of the Broad Institute.
He is known for his research into the population genetics of ancient humans, including their migrations and the mixing of populations, discovered by analysis of genome-wide patterns of mutations.
Sarah Tishkoff, a professor at the David and Lyn Silfen University will also take part.
Tishkoff is a professor of Genetics and Biology at the University of Pennsylvania.
She studies genomic and phenotypic variation in ethnically diverse Africans and her research combines fieldwork, laboratory research, and computational methods to examine African population history, and how genetic variation can affect a wide range of traits – for example, why humans have different susceptibility to disease, how they metabolise drugs, and how they adapt through evolution.
During the workshop, Chapurukha Kusimba, a Prof at the Department of Anthropology at the University of South Florida will make presentations.
His specialties include the archaeology of complex societies and the origins of inequality, ancient African chiefdoms and states, urbanism in Africa, Islam in Africa, and the African Diaspora in Asia and the Americas.
He directs multiple anthropological research projects in East Africa and Madagascar with his current project based on the Kenyan Coast investigating Ancient Trade Networks between East Africa, South, Southeast and East Asia.