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Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology

Where Science Meets Society

New IGB research theme takes closer look at protection of genomic data

Genomic technologies have the power to transform individual healthcare for the better. But with that power comes responsibility—the responsibility to protect the privacy of the individual and to make ethical choices that respect the rights of communities and populations.

Illinois, NIH host workshop on equity and diversity in genomic data science

The study of human genomics is inextricably linked to larger societal practices: how well diversity is represented in those who direct and conduct scientific research, how we balance data access with individual privacy, and the ways we group and describe both healthy and ill people. This September, the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB) had the privilege of collaborating with the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) to host a workshop examining these issues.

Scientists Partnering With Indigenous Communities for Genomics Research

Scientists are interested in studying the DNA of Indigenous populations because it can lead to discoveries, such as when their ancestors first arrived on the continent and where they originally came from. Genomics research can also shed light on the genetic basis of disease.

But early in his career, University of Illinois anthropologist Ripan Malhi (CGRH, GNDP, IGOH, RBTE) said he recognized there was a lack of trust between scientists and Indigenous communities.

Archaeologists find 200-year-old African DNA on tobacco pipe

DNA found on tobacco pipe stems uncovered by archaeologists from the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) and Anne Arundel County from 200-year-old stone slave quarter at Belvoir along MD 178 is most closely related to Mende in Sierra Leone.

“When Africans stepped on those slave ships, they lost not only their freedom but their identity,” said Dr. Julie Schablitsky, MDOT SHA chief archaeologist. “This is one way archaeologists can help descendants reclaim their heritage.”

Forensic Science

In conjunction with Parkland Community College's Pathways program and the Department of Anthropology, classes held at the IGB for ANTH 247 introduce students to the laboratory practices, molecular biology and DNA analysis skills commonly used by forensic DNA scientists. A hands-on, interactive approach is used that incorporates many of the same tools used by professional forensic DNA scientists.

First dogs in Americas arrived from Siberia, disappeared after European contact

A study reported in the journal Science offers an enhanced view of the origins and ultimate fate of the first dogs in the Americas. The dogs were not domesticated North American wolves, as some have speculated, but likely followed their human counterparts over a land bridge that once connected North Asia and the Americas, the study found.

Two Ancient populations diverged in the Americas later ‘reconverged’

A new genetic study of ancient individuals in the Americas and their contemporary descendants finds that two populations that diverged from one another 18,000 to 15,000 years ago remained apart for millennia before mixing again. This historic “reconvergence” occurred before or during their expansion to the southern continent.

Respect Indigenous ancestors: Scholars urge community engagement

A new article in the journal Science provides guidance for those intending to study ancient human remains in the Americas. The paper, written by Indigenous scholars and scientists and those who collaborate with Indigenous communities on studies of ancient DNA, offers a clear directive to others contemplating such research: First, do no harm.

Ripan Malhi featured on Day of Archaeology website

"Day of Archaeology" is a project that aims to provide a window into the daily lives of archeologists from all over the world.  The project asks people working, studying or volunteering in the archeological world to participate in a “Day of Archaeology” each summer by recording their day through text, images or videos and sharing them on their website.

This year, associate professor of anthropology and IGB member Ripan Malhi was featured in an article entitled "Molecular Archeology Puts Artifacts in Perspective.”

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