According to a recent Genetic Information study led by experts at Yale, the Broad Institute of MIT, and Harvard, what the human genome lacks in comparison to the genomes of other primates may have been just as important to the development of humankind as what has been acquired over the course of our evolutionary history.
The new discoveries, which were made on April 28 and were published in the journal Science, close a significant knowledge gap on earlier alterations to the human genome. Less focus has been placed on what’s missing from the human genome, despite a revolution in the ability to collect data from the genomes of various species allowing scientists to identify additions that are unique to the human genome, such as Genes that were essential for humans to develop the ability to speak.
What is this new study all about?
Researchers in the new study used an even deeper genomic dive into primate DNA to demonstrate that the loss of about 10,000 bits of genetic information over the course of our evolutionary history distinguishes humans from chimpanzees, the closest living relative of apes. Some of those “deleted” genetic informational fragments are closely related to Genetics involved in neuronal and cognitive processes, including one linked to the development of brain cells.
The Yale researchers discovered that all humans share the 10,000 missing bits of DNA that are found in the genomes of other mammals.
According to the authors, the fact that these genetic deletions became retained in all humans attests to their significance during evolution and implies that they provided some sort of biological advantage.
The Zoonomia Project, an international academic cooperation, published the report as one of several from the project that is cataloguing the variety in mammalian genomes by comparing DNA sequences from 240 species of currently extant mammals.
The Yale team’s research revealed that some genetic sequences that were present in the genomes of the majority of other mammal species, from mice to whales, disappeared in humans. However, they assert that some of these deletions led to new genetic encodings that removed components that would typically turn genes off, rather than disrupting human biology.
According to Reilly, the removal of this genetic data had the same impact as deleting the “n’t” prefix from the word “isn’t” to produce the word “is.”
According to him, “[Such deletions] can slightly alter the meaning of the blueprints for creating a human, explaining our larger brains and sophisticated cognition.”
Massively Parallel Reporter Assays (MPRA), a technique used by the researchers, may concurrently screen and quantify the function of thousands of Genetic alterations among species.
These techniques can help us begin to recognise the numerous little molecular components that define us as a species, according to Reilly.