Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Genetic protection against arsenic

Evolution has not only controlled human development over millions of years, it also has an impact on modern man.

This is one of the conclusions of a study of Argentinian villagers in the Andes, where the water contains high levels of arsenic. A gene variant that produces efficient and less toxic metabolism of arsenic in the body was much more common among the villagers than among other indigenous groups in South or Central America.

The study was a collaborative effort by Karin Broberg from Lund University and Carina Schlebusch and Mattias Jakobsson from Uppsala University in Sweden.

“We know that many bacteria and plants have genes that increase resistance to arsenic, a highly toxic substance that is found in soil and water in many parts of the world. There has been no previous research on whether the people in these regions also have protective genes against arsenic”, says Karin Broberg.

High levels of arsenic in drinking water are linked to a range of health problems. Increased child morbidity and an increased risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes are some examples.

In many places this is a relatively new problem, for example in Bangladesh, where it arose in connection with new drilled wells. In the Andes, however, people have lived with drinking water containing arsenic for thousands of years, owing partly to high levels of the toxic substance in the bedrock and partly to consequences of mining since the pre-colonial era. Even 7 000-year-old mummies from northern Chile have been found to have high levels of arsenic in their hair and internal organs.
Occupational and environmental medicine researcher Karin Broberg has been studying the health impact of metals in the Andes for a long time.

“We found that the people up in the mountains in Argentina had unusually efficient metabolism of arsenic. This meant that the toxin left the body rapidly and less toxically instead of accumulating in tissue”, she explains.

In the newly published study, the researchers have studied the genes of Atacameño Indian villagers in San Antonio de los Cobres in Argentina, who have lived in the area for multiple generations. Their genes were compared with those of various indigenous and Mestizo groups from Peru and indigenous groups from Colombia and Mexico. Over two thirds of the Argentinian villagers were found to carry a gene variant that accelerates the metabolism of arsenic, compared with half of the Peruvian villagers and only 14 per cent of the other indigenous groups.

There has been very little previous research on human evolutionary adaptation to environmental toxins. However, it is known that many of the genes that control the metabolism of poisons in the body have a large number of variants that occur with varying prevalence around the world. There may therefore be different adaptations among different populations, depending on what toxins they are exposed to in the local environment, according to Karin Broberg.

The study is a collaboration between researchers in Sweden, the US and Peru. They now hope to continue mapping genes that increase human tolerance of toxic substances.

They study has been published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, see (enter Karin Broberg in the search field).

Karin Broberg can be contacted on tel. +46 46 17 38 19 and +46 737 82 37 50 or by email,

Helga Ekdahl Heun | idw
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Advanced analysis of brain structure shape may track progression to Alzheimer's disease
26.10.2016 | Massachusetts General Hospital

nachricht Indian roadside refuse fires produce toxic rainbow
26.10.2016 | Duke University

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel light sources made of 2D materials

Physicists from the University of Würzburg have designed a light source that emits photon pairs. Two-photon sources are particularly well suited for tap-proof data encryption. The experiment's key ingredients: a semiconductor crystal and some sticky tape.

So-called monolayers are at the heart of the research activities. These "super materials" (as the prestigious science magazine "Nature" puts it) have been...

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Prototype device for measuring graphene-based electromagnetic radiation created

28.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Gamma ray camera offers new view on ultra-high energy electrons in plasma

28.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

When fat cells change their colour

28.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>