View of the lower jaw of the prehistoric child from Ethiopia, showing the tooth at left with abnormal shape resulting from amelogensis imperfecta.
The discovery of what is believed to be the oldest evidence yet found of a human hereditary genetic disorder has been announced by researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The researchers are Dr. Uri Zilberman and Patricia Smith, the Joel Wilbush Professor of Medical Anthropology, both of the Faculty of Dental Medicine of the Hebrew University and Dr. Silvana Condemi a senior researcher at the French Research Institute in Jerusalem. They are among the authors of an article in the June issue of the Journal of Human Evolution that details the finding of a disease known as amelogenesis imperfecta in the teeth of a fossil found in archaeological excavations in Ethiopia. The fossil is dated as 1.5 million years old and is from a two-year-old Homo erectus child. Homo erectus was a precursor of modern man.
According to Dr.Zilberman, this is the first recorded evidence from such an early prehistoric period of a hereditary disorder in which the specific genes responsible have been identified. Undoubtedly, he said, there are other hereditary diseases that have come down to us from prehistoric ancestors and which are yet to be discovered in fossil remains.
Jerry Barach | Hebrew University
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