Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Genetic protection against arsenic

16.10.2012
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 http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov (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, Karin.Broberg_Palmgren@med.lu.se

Helga Ekdahl Heun | idw
Further information:
http://www.vr.se
http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/2012/10/possible-positive-selection-for-an-arsenic-protective-haplotype-in-humans/
http://www.lu.se/images/Nyhetsbilder/Karin.Broberg.jpg

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht A promising target for kidney fibrosis
21.04.2017 | Brigham and Women's Hospital

nachricht Stem cell transplants: activating signal paths may protect from graft-versus-host disease
20.04.2017 | Technische Universität München

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: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

DGIST develops 20 times faster biosensor

24.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Nanoimprinted hyperlens array: Paving the way for practical super-resolution imaging

24.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Atomic-level motion may drive bacteria's ability to evade immune system defenses

24.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>