Thursday, February 14, 2013
Gaining a deep insight into human evolution, researchers have identified a mutation in a critical human gene as the source of several distinctive traits that make East Asians different from other races
The traits – thicker hair shafts, a greater number of sweat glands, characteristically identified teeth and smaller breasts – are the result of a gene mutation that occurred some 35,000 years ago, the researchers have concluded. The discovery explains a crucial juncture in the evolution of East Asians. But the method can also be applied to some 400 other sites on the human genome. The DNA changes at these sites, researchers believe, mark the turning points in recent human evolution as the populations on each continent diverged from each other. The first of those sites to be studied contains the gene known as EDAR. Africans and Europeans carry the standard version of the gene, but in most East Asians one of the DNA units has mutated.