Gene from Denisovans Allows Tibetans to Cope with Life at Higher Altitudes
Researchers have got to know what makes Tibetans to live normally at high altitudes. The US study says Tibetans carry a gene that came from an extinct species of humans.
The blood-diluting gene EPAS1 allows Tibetans to live in the environment that lacks oxygen. Those who do not carry this gene are at great risk to develop thick blood that can cause high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes.
Researchers have found Tibetans to carry the gene in their DNA from Denisovans, a relative to modern humans that lived 50,000 years ago. The gene increases the production of hemoglobin and red blood cells at modest level.
But the common form of the gene at high altitude boosts hemoglobin and red blood cell production at fast pace that puts a person to suffer side effects including hypertension and heartattacks. DNA test was carried out on the 41,000-year-old bone. The test indicated that Denisovans were different from our species and Neanderthals.
"Our finding may suggest that the exchange of genes through mating with extinct species may be more important in human evolution than previously thought", stated Ramus Neilsen, a computational biology professor at University of California, Berkeley.
Researchers said it is the first study that has unveiled that a gene belonging to an archaic human species has helped modern humans to cope up with different living conditions. Professor Nielsen said such an exchange of gene has proved helpful for humans as they adapted to new environments when they started to spread out of Africa and into other parts of the world.
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