Friday, November 24, 2006

10 Times More Different Than We Think?

[Posted by reader_iam]

Watson and Crick, move over: Breakthrough discovery in genetics will likely change fundamental assumptions. It's not just the "sequence" of the letters in the human genome, but also structural variations.
Until now it was assumed that the human genome, or "book of life", is largely the same for everyone, save for a few spelling differences in some of the words. Instead, the findings suggest that the book contains entire sentences, paragraphs or even whole pages that are repeated any number of times.

The findings mean that instead of humanity being 99.9 per cent identical, as previously believed, we are at least 10 times more different between one another than once thought - which could explain why some people are prone to serious diseases.

The studies published today have found that instead of having just two copies of each gene - one from each parent - people can carry many copies, but just how many can vary between one person and the next.
Another implication of the finding is that we are more different to our closest living relative, the chimpanzee, than previously assumed from earlier studies. Instead of being 99 per cent similar, we are more likely to be about 96 per cent similar.
The scientists looked at people from three broad racial groups - African, Asian and European. Although there was an underlying similarity in terms of how common it was for genes to be copied, there were enough racial differences to assign every person bar one to their correct ethnic origin. This might help forensic scientists wishing to know more about the race of a suspect.

Live long enough, and a striking amount of what one learned in school becomes obsolete.

A cautionary tale.