Your body has about 40 trillion cells, and they all arose from a single fertilized egg. But it turns out the DNA in many of those cells is no longer a perfect clone of that original one.
A study published [June 6] in the journal Science shows that our body’s cells are a mosaic, with many subtle genetic variations.
[Researcher Keren Yizhak] and her colleagues tapped into genetic information from about 500 people, cataloging 29 different tissues. They found populations of mutant cells in just about everyone they studied.
“The skin, the lung and the esophagus were the ones where we found the highest amount of mutations,” she says.
That makes sense, because those tissues are always renewing themselves and are constantly bombarded with sunlight, in the case of skin, and other potentially damaging agents, like smoke in the lungs.
“These are all normal tissues,” says Gad Getz, who runs the lab where Yizhak worked. “They are not cancerous.”
These tissues are just — you. It turns out you aren’t simply a clone of the cells you started with, despite what you may have learned in biology class.
“You’re just like a big puzzle, with different pieces with different sizes,” Getz says.
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