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The Originality of Humans

Are there genes that are "exclusively human"? asks Iddo Friedberg at Byte Size Biology. The human genome has been compared to those of great apes in an attempt to see which genes are shared and which make people different from their primate cousins, Friedberg says. A group of researchers from China and Canada is trying to answer the question of whether there are any genes in the human genome that are de novo, and are not homologous to any in apes. In a new paper published in PLoS Genetics, the team describes a research pipeline in which they scanned the human genome for genes with high similarity to chimp, orangutan, and rhesus macaque genes. They then took the genes that had mutations that rendered them functional only in humans, and looked to see if those genes were active by checking if they produced proteins. The researchers found that 60 de novo human genes are expressed in 11 human tissues, and that the testes and the cerebral cortex of humans have the highest expression of these genes, Friedberg says, adding, "This actually makes some sort of sense: the testes are hypothesized to be a hotbed (sorry…) of evolutionary novelty, with all the meiosis going on there. The high expression of the de novo human genes in the cerebral cortex also seems to confirm our anthropomorphic prejudice: we are smarter. Yay." And there may be even more de novo human genes that may explain the differences between humans and apes, the paper's authors add.

The Scan

Genome Sequences Reveal Range Mutations in Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

Researchers in Nature Genetics detect somatic mutation variation across iPSCs generated from blood or skin fibroblast cell sources, along with selection for BCOR gene mutations.

Researchers Reprogram Plant Roots With Synthetic Genetic Circuit Strategy

Root gene expression was altered with the help of genetic circuits built around a series of synthetic transcriptional regulators in the Nicotiana benthamiana plant in a Science paper.

Infectious Disease Tracking Study Compares Genome Sequencing Approaches

Researchers in BMC Genomics see advantages for capture-based Illumina sequencing and amplicon-based sequencing on the Nanopore instrument, depending on the situation or samples available.

LINE-1 Linked to Premature Aging Conditions

Researchers report in Science Translational Medicine that the accumulation of LINE-1 RNA contributes to premature aging conditions and that symptoms can be improved by targeting them.