Your patience will be rewarded
Tonight we saw Matthew appearing on PBS, on the First Peoples TV series, about the evolution and migrations of humankind. Jacqueline Johnson, to whom we owe the discovery of A00 through her research on her Perry ancestors, played a great role, telling her family's story and what it led to. Matthew was shown in Mbetta, his home town, where he brought the film crew from Wall to Wall productions, the creators of the documentary. When they approached us, their project seemed so good that we didn't want to turn down their request to see Matthew in action in Africa, even though we weren't ready to actually begin our field work.
We would never start the gathering of samples for our study without having passed through the entire ethical review process that's required of all human subjects researchers in our time. This is vital to prevent exploitation or inhumane treatment of the people who donate their DNA for the sake of scientific progress. But it has been an awfully long process for us, mainly because we had no experience, and no advisers to teach us how to write the lengthy and complex documents required. Over time, we did discover the incredible talents and generosity of Blaine Bettinger, attorney and genetic genealogist, who played a crucial role by drawing up our Materials Transfer Agreement, and helping us greatly with the many revisions the ethical review committee required of us.
All of this was gradually being played out, but the filming could not wait for it to all be completed. So what transpired was that Matthew enacted the sampling just for the film crew (who had brought their own informed consent forms), and the samples from that occasion are not being used in our study. They will not be included among our pool of samples that will be analyzed and studied. This is unfortunate, of course, but not a terrible loss, as there are many more men in the Nkongho-Mbo villages who have not yet been sampled. Most of the A00 originally found among the samples Matthew collected years ago, were from a neighboring village, Njungo, rather than from Mbetta. Since that village hasn't yet been touched, we aren't worried.
Today, the ethical review committee met for their second, and we hope final review of our Research Protocol, the plans for the study. The word we've heard is that it was a positive review. There is just one final step -- a senior professor has to sign off on the package, giving his seal of approval. We hope very much that this will take place by the end of this week. Keep us in your prayers! I'll update you right away on this major development. Thanks for your support -- this project has not faded away, but is very much alive!
You can read more about First Peoples: Africa that premiered June 24th at 10/9 c on PBS here.