Our evolutionary ancestors’ lack of choice in the mating game has left modern humans exposed to disease, according to new research published in the journal PLOS Biology tomorrow (Tuesday 25 January 2005).
Key regions of our DNA, that control when genes are switched on and off, have been altered by around 140,000 naturally-occurring mutations over the last six million years, the researchers found. This has left modern humans with ‘sloppy’ gene control mechanisms which can make us susceptible to diseases, or directly cause genetic diseases.
The researchers suggest that most of the ‘mildly harmful’ mutations occurred at a time when there was only a small population (10,000) of early Hominids, the two legged primates that were to later evolve into both humans and chimpanzees. Had there been more early Hominids, and hence a greater choice of mates, most of these mutations would have been overridden by natural selection from a larger pool of available DNA. This contrasts dramatically with rats and mice which, because of their larger ancestral population, have been able to maintain the integrity of their regulatory sections of DNA.
Andrew McLaughlin | alfa
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