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A New Relative?

The 'Dragon Man' could be a representative from a line of ancient hominins that is more closely related to humans than Neanderthals, the Guardian reports.

A skull belonging to a 140,000-year-old hominin was first discovered in 1933, but hidden away until 2018, the New York Times adds. New analyses appearing in the journal The Innovation suggest that the 'Dragon Man' – named for its discovery near the Dragon River – had a large cranium about the size of modern humans' as well as larger eye sockets, a wider mouth, and larger teeth, and indicate it is more closely related to modern humans than Neanderthals. Based on this, the researchers led by Qiang Ji, a professor of paleontology of Hebei GEO University, suggest that the Dragon Man is a new species of ancient hominin, Homo longi.

But not everyone is convinced this is a new species, The Scientist notes, adding that there is even disagreement among the papers' authors. Chris Stringer from the Natural History Museum in London and an author on the papers, tells the Guardian that the sample is also closely related to Homo daliensis and may instead be another member of that lineage, while others say it could even be Denisovan.

The Times adds that further genetic analysis could give further insight into the mystery. Whatever the result, Stringer tells it that "[i]t's going to be a more complicated plot."

The Scan

Positive Framing of Genetic Studies Can Spark Mistrust Among Underrepresented Groups

Researchers in Human Genetics and Genomics Advances report that how researchers describe genomic studies may alienate potential participants.

Small Study of Gene Editing to Treat Sickle Cell Disease

In a Novartis-sponsored study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that a CRISPR-Cas9-based treatment targeting promoters of genes encoding fetal hemoglobin could reduce disease symptoms.

Gut Microbiome Changes Appear in Infants Before They Develop Eczema, Study Finds

Researchers report in mSystems that infants experienced an enrichment in Clostridium sensu stricto 1 and Finegoldia and a depletion of Bacteroides before developing eczema.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Specificity Enhanced With Stem Cell Editing

A study in Nature suggests epitope editing in donor stem cells prior to bone marrow transplants can stave off toxicity when targeting acute myeloid leukemia with immunotherapy.