Daily Health Headlines

Tweak in Gene Function Allowed Humans to Walk Upright: Researchers

👤by Mary Elizabeth Dallas 0 comments 🕔Saturday, January 9th, 2016

THURSDAY, Jan. 7, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have identified a change in gene function that may explain why humans walk upright while other primates don't.

Stanford University researchers were studying a tiny fish called the threespine stickleback and noted that the fish had evolved different skeletal structures to adapt to environments around the world. The scientists also found that skeletal modifications occurred during human evolution, which resulted in a more sturdy foot well-suited for walking.

"It's somewhat unusual to have a research project that spans from fish all the way to humans, but it's clear that tweaking the expression levels of molecules called bone morphogenetic proteins can result in significant changes not just in the skeletal armor of the stickleback, but also in the hind-limb development of humans and primates," said study senior author David Kingsley. He is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and professor of developmental biology at Stanford.

"This change is likely part of the reason why we've evolved from having a grasping hind foot like a chimp to a weight-bearing structure that allows us to walk on two legs," he said in a university news release.

The threespine stickleback has evolved to adapt in different regions of the world. In marine environments, the plates are large and thick. But in freshwater environments, the threespine sticklebacks have smaller, lighter-weight plates. Scientists suggested this adaptation improves their buoyancy and body flexibility, allowing them to better evade predators.

The researchers looked at the regions of the fish's genome that control armor plate size. They also focused on differences among 11 pairs of marine and freshwater fish with varying armor-plate sizes, examining a region that includes the gene for a specific protein coding gene called GDF6.

Due to DNA changes near this gene, freshwater sticklebacks produce higher levels of GDF6 and developed smaller armor plates than those living in saltwater.

Based on these findings, the study's authors theorized that changes in GDF6 production levels could also have contributed to skeletal modifications that occurred during human evolution.

The research team compared differences in the genomes of chimps and humans. Previous studies found two places near the GDF6 gene in which humans have lost regulatory regions that are conserved in chimps. The researchers continued their investigation by examining one of these regions.

"This regulatory information was shared through about 100 million years of evolution," Kingsley said. "And yet, surprisingly, this region is missing in humans."

By controlling the production of a protein that is easy to see in mice, the researchers found GDF6 could play a critical role in limb development and evolution. Mice genetically engineered so they didn't produce GDF6 had skull bones that were smaller than normal and their toes were shorter than other mice, the researchers found.

Meanwhile, lab mice who had the chimp regulatory DNA produced the protein in their hind limbs. But GDF6 wasn't expressed in their forelimbs or in their big toes.

The researchers suggested that missing the GDF6 production in the hind-limb region helps explain why humans developed a more sturdy foot, enabling them to walk upright.

"You can evolve new skeletal structures by changing where and when the signals are expressed, and it's very satisfying to see similar regulatory principles in action whether you are changing the armor of a stickleback, or changing specific hind-limb structures during human evolution," Kingsley said.

The study was published online Jan. 7 in Cell.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

Article Credits / Source

Mary Elizabeth Dallas / HealthDay

Mary Elizabeth Dallas wrote this story for HealthDay. HealthDay provides up to the minute breaking health news. Click here to view this full article from HealthDay.

SOURCE: Stanford University School of Medicine, news release, Jan. 7, 2016

View More Articles From Mary Elizabeth Dallas 🌎View Article Website

Sponsored Product

Lunar Sleep for $1.95

Lunar Sleep for $1.95

People who have trouble sleeping typically have low levels of melatonin, so melatonin supplements seem like a logical fix for insomnia. There is a high demand for sleep aids, especially in the U.S. The National Health Interview Survey done in 2002, and again in 2007, found 1.6 million US adults were using complementary and alternative sleep aids for insomnia. Lunar Sleep was a top choice. Use Promo Code: Sleep2014 and only pay $1.95 S&H.

Get Lunar Sleep for $1.95

More Daily Health & Medical News Articles

U.S. Death Toll From Infectious Diseases Unchanged: Study

U.S. Death Toll From Infectious Diseases Unchanged: Study0

TUESDAY, Nov. 22, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- The war against infectious diseases -- medicine versus microbes -- has been holding steady, with the U.S. death rate from these diseases about the same now as it was in 1980, new research says. But ...

2 Doses of HPV Vaccine Effective for Younger Teens

2 Doses of HPV Vaccine Effective for Younger Teens0

TUESDAY, Nov. 22, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- New global research confirms that two doses of the vaccine for HPV, rather than three, can protect younger teens against the sexually transmitted virus. Based on this study and others, U.S. government ...

Tobacco Flavors Draw in Young Folks

Tobacco Flavors Draw in Young Folks0

TUESDAY, Nov. 22, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Flavored tobacco products attract young people who also consider them less harmful, researchers say. The University of North Carolina team reviewed 40 studies conducted in the United States and other ...

Health Tip: Exercise Can Be a Brain-Booster

Health Tip: Exercise Can Be a Brain-Booster0

(HealthDay News) -- Exercise does more than keep your body healthier. It also affects chemicals in your brain that help you think and focus. The American Council on Exercise says: Exercise improves alertness and focus, and helps you feel ...

New Fetal Views in 3-D

New Fetal Views in 3-D0

MONDAY, Nov. 21, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Expectant parents may soon be able to view a three-dimensional virtual reality version of the fetus, researchers say. This is possible with new technology that combines MRI and ultrasound data into a ...

View More Daily Health & Medical News Articles


Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Our Mailing List

Subscribe to our mailing list to get the latest health news as it breaks!

Your information will not be shared with anyone!