Gene that gives us edge over apes decoded

LONDON (TIP): Researchers have discovered a new gene which they say helps explain how humans evolved from chimpanzees . The gene, called miR-941 , is carried only by humans and it appeared after humans evolved from apes and played a crucial role in human brain development and could shed light on how we learned to use tools and language.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh compared it to 11 other species of mammals, including chimpanzees, gorillas, mice and rats. This finding, published in Nature Communications , brings us closer to answering one of science’s leading questions: What makes the human body different from other mammals? A previous study that also analysed the differences between apes and humans found that the evolutionary genetic advantages that help humans live longer than apes also make them more vulnerable to diseases of ageing, including heart disease , cancer, and dementia. Scientists led by Dr Martin Taylor at the Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine showed that miR-941 had an important part in the development of the human brain and can even help explain how we acquire language and learn to use tools. This new gene is the first known gene to be found in humans and not in apes. According to the team, it appears to have a certain purpose in the human body.

Pigs hold clue to human diseases

Scientists have sequenced the pig’s genome, showing the swine and humans share 112 DNA mutations linked to a range of disease like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s , which may help in fighting diseases. Researchers, who undertook the largest ever study of the pig genome, found that swine are adaptable, easy to seduce with food and susceptible to domestication — much like humans.

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