Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New brain gene gives us edge over apes, study suggests

Date:
November 14, 2012
Source:
University of Edinburgh
Summary:
Scientists have taken a step forward in helping to solve one of life's greatest mysteries -- what makes us human?

Silverback gorilla. Scientists have taken a step forward in helping to solve one of life's greatest mysteries -- what makes us human?
Credit: Maridav / Fotolia

Scientists have taken a step forward in helping to solve one of life's greatest mysteries -- what makes us human? An international team of researchers have discovered a new gene that helps explain how humans evolved from chimp-like ancestors.

Scientists say the gene -- called miR-941 -- appears to have played a crucial role in human brain development and may shed light on how we learned to use tools and language.

Researchers say it is the first time that a new gene -- carried only by humans and not by apes -- has been shown to have a specific function within the human body.

A team at the University of Edinburgh compared the human genome to 11 other species of mammals, including chimpanzees, gorillas, mouse and rat, to find the differences between them.

The results, published in Nature Communications, showed that the gene -- miR-941 -- is unique to humans. The researchers say that it emerged between six and one million years ago, after humans had evolved from apes.

The gene is highly active in two areas of the brain that control our decision making and language abilities. The study suggests it could have a role in the advanced brain functions that make us human.

It is known that most differences between species occur as a result of changes to existing genes, or the duplication and deletion of genes.

But scientists say this gene emerged fully functional out of non-coding genetic material, previously termed "junk DNA," in a startlingly brief interval of evolutionary time. Until now, it has been remarkably difficult to see this process in action.

Researcher Dr Martin Taylor, who led the study at the Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, said the results were significant.

He said: "As a species, humans are wonderfully inventive -- we are socially and technologically evolving all the time. But this research shows that we are innovating at a genetic level too. This new molecule sprang from nowhere at a time when our species was undergoing dramatic changes: living longer, walking upright, learning how to use tools and how to communicate. We're now hopeful that we will find more new genes that help show what makes us human."


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Hai Yang Hu, Liu He, Kseniya Fominykh, Zheng Yan, Song Guo, Xiaoyu Zhang, Martin S. Taylor, Lin Tang, Jie Li, Jianmei Liu, Wen Wang, Haijing Yu, Philipp Khaitovich. Evolution of the human-specific microRNA miR-941. Nature Communications, 2012; 3: 1145 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms2146

Cite This Page:

University of Edinburgh. "New brain gene gives us edge over apes, study suggests." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 November 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121114113458.htm>.
University of Edinburgh. (2012, November 14). New brain gene gives us edge over apes, study suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121114113458.htm
University of Edinburgh. "New brain gene gives us edge over apes, study suggests." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121114113458.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

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
Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

AFP (July 30, 2014) Pan-African airline ASKY has suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone amid the worsening Ebola health crisis, which has so far caused 672 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Duration: 00:43 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

AP (July 30, 2014) At least 20 New Jersey residents have tested positive for chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that has spread through the Caribbean. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo

Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo

AP (July 30, 2014) River otters were hitting the water slides to beat the summer heatwave on Wednesday at Ichikawa City's Zoological and Botanical Garden. (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