What sets humans, chimpanzees apart? Genetic markers could offer answers


What makes humans different from chimpanzees? Evolutionary biologists from Howard University and the Yale School of Public Health have developed a unique genetic analysis technique that may provide important answers.

Their method—Model Averaged Site Selection via Poisson Random Field (MASS-PRF)—looks at protein-coding genes to identify genetic signatures of positive selection. These signatures are actually DNA changes that contribute to the development of beneficial traits, or human adaptations, that emerged during human evolutionary history and that are shared across the human species.

Other approaches have examined this question but analyses have focused on whole genes, typically missing focused evolution that often occurs in small regions of genes. The method [authors Michael Campbell and Jeffrey Townsend] created identifies selection within genes, pinpointing sets of mutations that have undergone positive selection.

[T]he technique has far-reaching implications. It helped the research team discover several genes whose evolution appears to have been critical to the divergence of humans from their common ancestor with chimpanzees. The genes play roles in neurological processing, immunity, and reproduction, and the method could eventually help scientists identify many more.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: Evolutionary Biologists Probe Long-standing Genetics Mystery

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