MRI, DNA and Nigerian Pseudo-scientists

1 Comment » January 13th, 2010 posted by // Categories: Health

MRI, DNA and Nigerian Pseudo-scientists 


Dr. Abdullahi Ibn Mohammed

There are many vertical lenses through which we view intra-personal dynamics in Nigeria; for example, the many perspectives being put forth currently in the increasing debate on what scientific methods to accept in predicting the ages of football players or the use of DNA in settlement of paternity. Although some people might argue that no lens, or perspective, is better than the other, we need to remind such people that there are universal laws that govern science and Nigeria is no exception to such. This debate requires the input of all reasonable Nigerians with scientific mindset before the country becomes a laughing stock of the scientific world. I am therefore wading into the fray because of my training as a scientist. From my experience, in all scientific inquiry on issues like paternity or life-span development, the scientific method is the best tool we have to guide us.

 Late last year, a senior official of the Nigerian Football Federation was reported to have cast doubts on the efficacy of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), in detecting the true ages of Under- 17 footballers. This official was reacting to the issue of FIFA adopting the MRI test to reaffirm the ages of Under 17 football players registered to trade tackles in the 2009 FIFA under-17 tournaments. He ruled out MRI as unreliable and concluded that the country was going to depend on the ages of the footballers as declared by their parents. That stand was pathetic for a country aspiring to lead the black world. 

 There are certain scientific facts that Nigerians must accept. For us to continue to debunk universally accepted scientific measures with crude sentiments, is not tenable. Even an organization like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has realized the need to team up with Microsoft to find solutions to the incidence of cybercrime that has been giving Nigeria bad press all over the globe. Within one week EFCC was able to shut down 800 email sites of advance fee (419) fraudsters and 18 people were arrested. The scientific method had been there all along but we never cared to partner with Microsoft thereby allowing the 419 fraudsters unfettered freedom to continue embarrassing the country.

 Researchers are increasingly using physiological measures in the study of human development at different points in a life-span. Development is the pattern of movement or changes that begin at conception and continue throughout the life of the person. Development includes growth and decline. It is also influenced by an interplay of biological, cognitive, and socioemotional processes. There are eight main periods of division in development; prenatal, infancy, early childhood, middle and late childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, middle adulthood, and late adulthood. Late adulthood is being divided into the young old (65-84) and the oldest old (85+). A type of physiological measure researchers use in predicting puberty, involves the assessment of hormones in the blood stream. For example, as puberty unfolds the levels of certain hormones increase . To determine the nature of these hormonal changes, researchers take blood samples from willing adolescents for such tests.

 Another physiological measure that is increasingly used is neuroimaging, especially functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) or the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the wrist. In FMRI, electromagnetic waves are used to construct images of a person’s brain tissues and the biological activities. In the MRI, a strong magnetic field is passed through the wrist to detect if the bones are fully developed. The wrist bones are not fully developed till age 18 years. It is the same way that a child frontal lobe in the brain is not fully developed till age 4 years. From the foregoing, what is the basis for the highly placed Nigerian football administrator in rejecting the wrist MRI?

 Another area of concern for me is the argument on the use of deoxyribonucleic acid, DNA, in identifying the true beneficiaries in the Pfizer settlement in Kano. My question to the people rejecting the DNA test is, how long shall we continue to make Nigeria a laughing stock in the international scientific community? For the avoidance of doubt, let me try again to explain what DNA stands for and why it is necessary to use such scientific method in identifying the true beneficiaries in the settlement.

 Known species have the mechanism for transmitting their characteristics from one generation to the next. This mechanism is explained by the principles of genetics. Each Nigerian carries a genetic code that we inherited from our parents, and it is a distinctly human code. We all started our life as a single cell weighing about one twenty-millionth of an ounce. This tiny piece of matter is what houses our entire genetic code, and that code is carried by our genes. A gene is a segment of DNA that contains the hereditary code. The nucleus of human cell contains chromosomes, which are threadlike structures that contain the remarkable substance deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. DNA is therefore the complex molecule that contains our genetic information.

 The DNA has been used all over the world in solving problems of intricate identification. There was a problem of a Nigerian boy in England who was killed and his headless body was mutilated, to help avoid identification. The police had to trace his origin to Ekiti, South-West of Nigeria, through the application of DNA test. The boy’s guardians were located and later the murderers were found.

 DNA is now helping many African-Americans to trace their origin to their birth places in Africa. A well known African American Pentecostal preacher, Bishop T. D. Jake, has been able to trace his origin to a village in Amigbo, Imo State of Nigeria. Oprah Winfrey, the popular talk show personality, is also traced to a tribe in Liberia. DNA has been used and it is still being used to solve cases of murder and paternity all over the world.

 Why are we having problem in accepting DNA test, as the standard test, in solving the problem of identifying the actual beneficiaries of the Pfizer settlement in Kano?

 My advice to the Board of Trustees handling the process of funds disbursement is that they should not listen to the arguments of those against the use of DNA to authenticate the real beneficiaries. According to reliable sources, there are already about 500 applicants who are laying claims to having participated in the Trovan trials whereas the official list contains less than 200 names. Talk of 419! We can’t operate in a digital world with an analog mindset, which is why it is gratifying that no less a personality than the highly revered Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, has endorsed the use of the fool-proof DNA testing to establish the authentic beneficiaries of the Pfizer Trovan settlement.

 It is high time these pseudo-scientists in the Nigerian Football Federation, who were rejecting MRI and those people who have been campaigning against the use of DNA, were told to shut up and behave decently. We have had enough of this rubbishing of our great country.

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One Response to “MRI, DNA and Nigerian Pseudo-scientists”

  1. aliyu asad says:

    Interesting article, I see the handover of test patient files has now happened tueday 19th; see the link
    hopefully DNA can begin and everything can be settled transparently and amicably soon.

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