Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Genetic protection against arsenic

Date:
October 16, 2012
Source:
Lund University
Summary:
Evolution has not only controlled human development over millions of years, it also has an impact on modern humans. This is one of the conclusions of a study of Argentinian villagers in the Andes, where the water contains high levels of arsenic. A gene variant that produces efficient and less toxic metabolism of arsenic in the body was much more common among the villagers than among other indigenous groups in South or Central America.

Evolution has not only controlled human development over millions of years, it also has an impact on modern humans. This is one of the conclusions of a study of Argentinian villagers in the Andes, where the water contains high levels of arsenic. A gene variant that produces efficient and less toxic metabolism of arsenic in the body was much more common among the villagers than among other indigenous groups in South or Central America.

The study was a collaborative effort by Karin Broberg from Lund University and Carina Schlebusch and Mattias Jakobsson from Uppsala University in Sweden.

"We know that many bacteria and plants have genes that increase resistance to arsenic, a highly toxic substance that is found in soil and water in many parts of the world. There has been no previous research on whether the people in these regions also have protective genes against arsenic," says Karin Broberg.

High levels of arsenic in drinking water are linked to a range of health problems. Increased child morbidity and an increased risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes are some examples.

In many places this is a relatively new problem, for example in Bangladesh, where it arose in connection with new drilled wells. In the Andes, however, people have lived with drinking water containing arsenic for thousands of years, owing partly to high levels of the toxic substance in the bedrock and partly to consequences of mining since the pre-colonial era. Even 7 000-year-old mummies from northern Chile have been found to have high levels of arsenic in their hair and internal organs.

Occupational and environmental medicine researcher Karin Broberg has been studying the health impact of metals in the Andes for a long time.

"We found that the people up in the mountains in Argentina had unusually efficient metabolism of arsenic. This meant that the toxin left the body rapidly and less toxically instead of accumulating in tissue," she explains.

In the newly published study, the researchers have studied the genes of Atacameño Indian villagers in San Antonio de los Cobres in Argentina, who have lived in the area for multiple generations. Their genes were compared with those of various indigenous and Mestizo groups from Peru and indigenous groups from Colombia and Mexico. Over two thirds of the Argentinian villagers were found to carry a gene variant that accelerates the metabolism of arsenic, compared with half of the Peruvian villagers and only 14 per cent of the other indigenous groups.

There has been very little previous research on human evolutionary adaptation to environmental toxins. However, it is known that many of the genes that control the metabolism of poisons in the body have a large number of variants that occur with varying prevalence around the world. There may therefore be different adaptations among different populations, depending on what toxins they are exposed to in the local environment, according to Karin Broberg.

The study is a collaboration between researchers in Sweden, the US and Peru. They now hope to continue mapping genes that increase human tolerance of toxic substances.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Lund University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Schlebusch CM, Lewis Jr. CM, Vahter M, Engström K, Tito RY, Obregón-Tito AJ, Huerta D, Polo SI, Medina ÁC, Brutsaert TD, Concha G, Jakobsson M, Broberg K. Possible Positive Selection for an Arsenic-Protective Haplotype in Humans. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2012; DOI: 10.1289/ehp.1205504

Cite This Page:

Lund University. "Genetic protection against arsenic." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 October 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121016085027.htm>.
Lund University. (2012, October 16). Genetic protection against arsenic. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121016085027.htm
Lund University. "Genetic protection against arsenic." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121016085027.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve

Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve

AP (July 31, 2014) — Seacrest Wolf Preserve on the northern Florida panhandle allows more than 10,000 visitors each year to get up close and personal with Arctic and British Columbian Wolves. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers

Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers

AP (July 31, 2014) — With Florida's panther population rebounding, some ranchers complain the protected predators are once again killing their calves. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Big Waves In Arctic Ocean Threaten Polar Ice

Big Waves In Arctic Ocean Threaten Polar Ice

Newsy (July 30, 2014) — Big waves in parts of the Arctic Ocean are unprecedented, mainly because they used to be covered in ice. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) — Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:  

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile iPhone Android Web
      Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins