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Instituto de Genetica Humana 

 

History

The Institute of Human Genetics underwent a series of previous research projects in communities and human groups of different nature, that were consolidated in the Human Expedition; those projects were the substrate on which we acquired the expertise, the acquired logistic know-how, and close friendships with the communities, making it possible that the whole Universidad Javeriana and other institutions could be part of the phase we called the Great Human Expedition. Of all the research and service projects that we presently have in the Great Human Expedition, the project that has been more successful is the study of the genetic characteristics of this communities, therefore is very important to analyze it in detail, pinpointing the process we have pursued and the various objectives and aims.

Geneticists travelled through multiple human settlements, particularly isolated, observing and questioning. Some cases are presented as an example.

 

Diseases from 2500 years

 

Observation of communities in search of patients with genetic diseases or congenital malformations have allowed us to begin the process of connecting isolated findings, with what could have happened before the arrival of the Europeans or in the first years of the conquest. In general, congenital malformations and genetic diseases are evident and can be found in all cultures as they are documented through art. Our Pre-Colombian cultures were not strangers to this influence, and in Tumaco/La Tolita ceramics, for example, they left a varied catalog clearly documenting the diseases. After various years of searching for this ceramics in museums and collections, we have put together this information and those of observations on terrain in the Human Expedition, in a book that shows the clear evidence through various centuries of this diseases in our land.

The case of Actinic Prurigo

 

his entity is well known in American populations and is characterized by a skin lesion exposed to the sun, which is incurable and very noticeable. In our group, in association with the Dermatological Institute Federico Lleras in Santafé de Bogotá, we had conducted some studies to find out the reasons why some individuals did the disease and others did not, and we had described a genetic characteristic present in many of the individuals with Prurigo known as the HLA B40. Well, the HLA B40 that we describe as "associated" with Actinic Prurigo is much more frequent in indigenous populations or indigenous ancestors than in Caucasian populations, which only explained why Prurigo is more frequent in descendants of indigenous people. 


We found in the Chimila Indians more than 40 cases of Actinic Prurigo. Thanks to the finding of the Chimila and their consent to our studies, we know that there is a genetic predisposition to the disease, also in the HLA; that there are other drugs other than Thalidomide that do not have their potential problems, are easy to acquire, inexpensive and produce a marked improvement in symptoms, and it was possible to describe the immunological reaction in the skin of the patient with Actinic Prurigo.

Reviving the history of America

 

We have not only concentrated our efforts in the individuals that have a disease; under the genetic perspective healthy individuals are equally  important, because they can help us understand the process of settling in America, the adjustment of human groups to the environment, the relation between the different groups and to those of different origin that settled in our territory, finally allowing us to document under the biological perspective the cultural and linguistic diversity we can observe in our surroundings. Biology allows us because of the new technologies, to bring to life the history of our country, understand it, and appropriate it. To be able to do this, we must have the genetic structure of each of this groups under various and different angles. From the simplest to the most complex level, we are interested in typifying their blood groups, the different forms of HLA antigens, and also the variations in DNA sequences, in the nucleus and the mitochondria. All this data allows us an analysis that will result in mathematical models related to human groups, therefore elaborating a dendrogram or phylogenetic tree of relationships that, interpreted under the context of cultural or linguistic findings, results in a coherent perspective of the prehistory of our country.

Instituto de Genética Humana - Carrera 7 # 40-62 Edificio 32 Bogotá, D.C Colombia. Teléfono (57 - 1) 3208320 Ext: 2794