How far we've come

Lab Note #3
Dec 01, 2015

Our friends who've been with us since 2013 know what a long journey it's been. Now I'd like to bring you up to date on our project's progress.

After the long and arduous process of winning approval from the ethical review board finally succeeded on July 6, 2015, Matthew immediately launched our first field trip in late July, which lasted through most of August. On this trip, as I mentioned in the last Lab Note, he collected a total of 204 samples. I want to tell you about the full results we now have from these samples.

Out of the 204, we had technical issues with a fair number of samples, due to Matthew working in a humid, African forest environment, and this meant that we ended up with results from 176 samples. We've now made changes in his work flow so that the samples have a better chance to dry, and we expect to have considerably better results in the next round of testing.

The results from those 176, samples, though, were great! This chart shows how they break down:

As you can see, these are very successful results, considering there were so few known A00 samples in the world previously!

The 11 Mbo samples mentioned in our 2013 paper with Mendez and Hammer, were only a few of the ones Matthew had collected in 2001-2006. But they were picked out of the Center for Genetic Anthropology database because they were the largest number of A00 from any one ethnic group. What that reflected is the relative ease with which Matthew can obtain large numbers of samples from his own people, the Nkongho-Mbo.

But it doesn't reflect at all where the highest concentration of A00 is found. We can now clearly see that with 40% A00, the Bangwa represent the epicenter of A00 in this region, and very possibly in the world.

As I shared in the last Lab Note, we found that so far there are two main subgroups of A00, defined by different Y-SNP mutations, which, naturally, divide along ethnic lines: A00a among the Bangwa, and A00b among the Mbo. We also found the one Bangwa sample which didn't belong to either subgroup. We're very much looking forward to seeing his full Y chromosome sequence, to see what kind of a branch he belongs to!

In October, Matthew went on another field trip, this time to sample some of the Bamileke, neighbors who are closely related to the Bangwa, but have been separated by the division between the English and French-speaking parts of Cameroon. In his earlier work, Matthew hadn't found any A00 among the Bamileke he sampled, but "Bamileke" is a very broad umbrella term, including diverse people from a wide area. Those he previously sampled were migrants living in entirely different areas of the country, and Matthew believes it may be a different story when we sample those living very near to the Bangwa, who believe they have Bamileke origins. This time he collected 43 samples in Fongo-Tongo, 36 in Bafou, and 15 in Bameka.

Matthew also visited some different Bangwa villages in October that he hadn't been able to get to in his first trip, and made a return visit to Njentse. He sampled 27 men in Essoh-Attah, a southeastern Bangwa village, 50 in Ndungated, to the north, and 35 in Njentse, where he'd previously only been able to collect 10. This will give us an even richer sample set of A00 to study, hopefully revealing some variance.

Matthew found that some of these towns had a diverse population made up of many ethnic groups. This was particularly notable in Ndungated, where the samples included 39 from a variety of non-Bangwa people, and Fongo-Tongo, where there were 25 non-Bamileke. A total of 60 samples were collected on this trip from people other than Bamileke or Bangwa. Since we have good data on their places of origin and languages, as well as that of their parents and grandparents, we should be able to use them to get some insights about the populations of other parts of Cameroon.

All of the 206 samples collected in October have now been shipped to Berlin and are now being extracted and stored in YSEQ's lab, awaiting their chance to be tested. We're in need of some very substantial funding now, as it will cost us over $4500 just to get started on those. YSEQ is very reasonable, but with so many samples, lab costs really add up!

The next trip is planned for January, to the regions directly West from the Bangwa and Mbo. Matthew will be sampling in Tinto and Besongabang, both Banyang towns, and Eyumojock, of the Ejagham people. There has been migration back and forth between these western peoples and the Mbo and Bangwa, and we want to see whether A00 is found at all among them. In his earlier sampling, Matthew only collected one Ejagham and seventeen Banyang samples, and we think it will give a better picture of Cameroon's diversity to find out what the Y-DNA of this area looks like.

Our funding will also have to cover all the usual expenses for this trip, as well as those of shipping kits and samples back and forth, to and from YSEQ. And then we'll want to test those new samples! We can't even hope to cover that future lab expense in the current fundraiser, so another one will be needed down the road.

It will also be needed for the most exciting trip, to the Southeastern region, where people short and tall live side by side, the smaller being known as "Pygmies" (a term which we should try to avoid, as it's often considered derogatory.) Matthew found several A00 in that region in his earlier work, among people of both statures, and it should be extremely interesting to see if we can find some this time around. Their A00 should be as divergent from that of the Bangwa as we could hope to find. So stay with us as the project advances, there's so much still to see!

Please join us in our scientific adventure, which we hope will contribute to revealing our human origins. If you possibly can, we need your financial support, whether you can afford $5 or $1000.

Here's the link where you can donate to our current fundraiser:

We also need your help to spread the word to wider circles of people. If you like using Facebook, please invite your friends to our event page, by posting this link: Our main Facebook page is Hope to see you there!

P.S. We're putting a newsletter together for everyone interested in the project. If you'd like to receive it, please sign up at We'll never use your email address for spam or share it with 3rd parties, and you can unsubscribe at any time

Please wait...