(Photo : Reuters)
While many among our seven billion choose to bicker and argue about tiny differences between one fellow human being and another, the fact remains that we are the same species, and are, in fact, more like each other than anything else on this planet. Enter a new study from Harvard scientists, who have determined that a single gene mutation out of China is responsible for thick hair, more sweat glands, and a different set up of teeth in a large portion of our population..
The mutation was found to be associated with the EDAR (ectodysplasin receptor) gene, responsible for skin characteristics such as sweat glands and hair. Human groups originating from Africa or Europe were found to have a different variation of the EDAR gene than those who can be traced back to East Asia.
"Our computational analysis suggests the allele arose in central China approximately 30,000 years ago. Although EDAR370A has been associated with increased scalp hair thickness and changed tooth morphology in humans, its direct biological significance and potential adaptive role remain unclear," reads the study summary.
The 30,000-year date is an estimate made by the researchers who determined that the gene mutation came out about anytime between 13,000 and 40,000 years ago. This would help explain how Native Americans, who came from Asia in waves, carry the same gene mutation as well.
To study the gene, the scientists used mice as a model, since the ectodysplasin pathway is essentially the same across vertebrates - whether it's a mouse or a human. By altering a single letter in the EDAR gene, scientists found that mice displayed more hair and more sweat glands.
The study doesn't exactly open doors in terms of gene therapy (although it could theoretically be used to combat balding, with the possible side effect of fuller breasts) but it does help scientists slowly map out human evolution, where certain traits originated, and more importantly, the roads our distant ancestors trod upon.