Findings shed light on the evolution of human cognition, the capacity for long lifespan and the potential for neurodegenerative disease
A research team from the Salk Institute, the Yerkes National Primate Research Center of Emory University and the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA), has identified genes in the cerebral cortex that differ in levels of activity between humans and nonhuman primates, including chimpanzees and rhesus monkeys. These findings, which appear in the online journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may provide essential clues to the unusual cognitive abilities of humans. They also may help researchers understand why humans have a longer lifespan than other primate species and yet are so vulnerable to age-related, neurodegenerative diseases.
Because the DNA sequences of humans are so similar to those of chimpanzees, scientists have long speculated that differences in the activity levels of particular genes, otherwise known as gene expression, and, as a result, the amounts of particular proteins cells produce, are what distinguish humans from chimpanzees. The recent sequencing of the human genome has led to the development of "gene chips" that enable researches to examine the expression levels of thousands of genes at a time as well as compare expression levels in different species.
Kelly Duncan | EurekAlert!
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