Tuesday, December 20, 2005

One in 3.1 billion

One of the funniest things about genetics for the longest time was the inability of scientist to find the "race" gene. Race has always been considered important in the medical field due to different ethnic groups having higher tendencies toward certain diseases and unlikely reactions to medicines. Somebody has announced that they've finally located a part of the human genone that controls the color of our skin.

From the Washington Post:

Scientists said yesterday that they have discovered a tiny genetic mutation that largely explains the first appearance of white skin in humans tens of thousands of years ago, a finding that helps solve one of biology's most enduring mysteries and illuminates one of humanity's greatest sources of strife.

The work suggests that the skin-whitening mutation occurred by chance in a single individual after the first human exodus from Africa, when all people were brown-skinned. That person's offspring apparently thrived as humans moved northward into what is now Europe, helping to give rise to the lightest of the world's races.

It's just one miniscule letter. The letter A to be exact. When you consider the large amount of war and strife created by this simple, one-code gene, it really starts to make you wonder.
Leaders of the study, at Penn State University, warned against interpreting the finding as a discovery of "the race gene." Race is a vaguely defined biological, social and political concept, they noted, and skin color is only part of what race is -- and is not.

In fact, several scientists said, the new work shows just how small a biological difference is reflected by skin color. The newly found mutation involves a change of just one letter of DNA code out of the 3.1 billion letters in the human genome -- the complete instructions for making a human being.

It should be noted that this is only a skin color gene and not truly a "race" gene. There exist so many other factors that make up "race" and "culture" and that is not limited to simply one tiny gene. The skin-color gene does not influence other genes like intelligence, athletic ability, dexterity, and other such human traits. Knowing where the existance of the skin color gene isn't going to revolutionize any aspect of our lives. It's merely a human curiosity based upon our historical obcession with skin color.

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