How did our brains get so big?

| | June 8, 2018
brain
A woman looks at a real human brain being displayed as part of an exhibition at the @Bristol attraction in 2011 in Bristol, England. Image credit: Matt Cardy/Getty Images Europe
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

By studying [brain organoids, researcher Frank] Jacobs could look for genes that are switched on more strongly in the growing brains of humans than in those of monkeys. And when he presented his data to his colleagues at a lab meeting, one gene grabbed everyone’s attention.

“There was a gene called NOTCH2NL that was screaming in humans and off in [the monkeys],” says Sofie Salama, who co-directs the Santa Cruz team with David Haussler. “What the hell is NOTCH2NL? None of us had ever heard of it.”

It’s unique to humans, and it likely controls the number of neurons we make as embryos. It’s one of a growing list of human-only genes that could help explain why our brains are so much bigger than those of other apes.

Related article:  ‘High-stakes information battle’ brewing over which coronavirus experts to trust

In extreme cases, the duplication of the NOTCH2NL genes can lead to macrocephaly, where people grow up with unusually large brains and heads. Conversely, the wholesale loss of these genes can lead to microcephaly—a condition of small brains and heads. Other changes in this region have been linked to autism, schizophrenia, and intellectual disorders. “It’s fascinating to think that the same mechanism that helped enable a bigger brain might also make us susceptible to these disorders,” Salama says. “We’re paying the price for the gain we got in our evolution.”

Read full, original post: A New Genetic Clue to How Humans Got Such Big Brains

Outbreak
Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
sperm swim

Video: Sperm are ‘spinners not swimmers’—because they are lopsided

Research by fertility scientists in the UK and Mexico challenges the accepted view of how sperm “swim”, suggesting that it ...
mag insects image superjumbo v

Disaster interrupted: Which farming system better preserves insect populations: Organic or conventional?

A three-year run of fragmentary Armageddon-like studies had primed the journalism pumps and settled the media framing about the future ...
dead bee desolate city

Are we facing an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ caused by ‘intensive, industrial’ farming and agricultural chemicals? The media say yes; Science says ‘no’

The media call it the “Insect Apocalypse”. In the past three years, the phrase has become an accepted truth of ...
breastfeeding bed x facebook x

Infographic: We know breastfeeding helps children. Now we know it helps mothers too

When a woman becomes pregnant, her risk of type 2 diabetes increases for the rest of her life, perhaps because ...
biotechnology worker x

Can GMOs rescue threatened plants and crops?

Some scientists and ecologists argue that humans are in the midst of an "extinction crisis" — the sixth wave of ...
food globe x

Are GMOs necessary to feed the world?

Experts estimate that agricultural production needs to roughly double in the coming decades. How can that be achieved? ...
eating gmo corn on the cob x

Are GMOs safe?

In 2015, 15 scientists and activists issued a statement, "No Scientific consensus on GMO safety," in the journal Environmental Sciences ...
Screen Shot at PM

Charles Benbrook: Agricultural economist and consultant for the organic industry and anti-biotechnology advocacy groups

Independent scientists rip Benbrook's co-authored commentary in New England Journal calling for reassessment of dangers of all GMO crops and herbicides ...
Screen Shot at PM

ETC Group: ‘Extreme’ biotechnology critic campaigns against synthetic biology and other forms of ‘extreme genetic engineering’

The ETC Group is an international environmental non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Canada whose stated purpose is to monitor "the impact of emerging technologies and ...
Share via
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend