We're All a Bunch of Genetic Mutants, Research Finds

By Allison Bond | September 2, 2009 11:57 am

DNADear reader: You’re a mutant. But take comfort—it’s not just you. According to recent research, every person on Earth introduces between 100 and 200 new genetic mutations into the human genome.

BBC News reports:

[Researchers] looked at thousands of genes in the Y chromosomes of two Chinese men. They knew the men were distantly related, having shared a common ancestor who was born in 1805.

By looking at the number of differences between the two men, and the size of the human genome, they were able to come up with an estimate of between 100 and 200 new mutations per person.

This number of mutations is small compared to the size of the full human genome, so finding them was apparently quite a feat. Such a feat, in fact, that one of the scientists reportedly said that “finding this tiny number of mutations was more difficult than finding an ant’s egg in an emperor’s rice store.”

Some mutations can give rise to health conditions like cancer, so being able to identify new genetic variations not only could teach us about our own evolution, but could even help prevent disease-causing alterations in our DNA.

Related Content:
Discoblog: Can DNA Testing Reveal China’s Future Stars?
Discoblog: Looking to Immortalize Your Pet? Now You Can Turn Muffy’s DNA Into a Diamond
Discoblog: Two Twins, Two Dads: DNA Test Proves “Twins” Born to Different Fathers

Image: flickr / ghutchis

  • http://www.atotalawareness.com D J Wray

    Have they identified mutations in “brain DNA” or is the king of all body parts left in the too hard basket once again?

    D J Wray

  • LMA

    Does the same hold through for identical twins?

  • LMA

    true*, not through.

  • Kieguy

    Is that the full extent of the study…comparison between two Chinese men? Don’t you need a much bigger set of comparisons to draw any meaningful estimates from? And the conclusion isn’t anything new. We already knew random mutations happen with everybody’s DNA…maybe just not a good estimate on how many…?

  • http://utahebikes.com Kevin

    The claim is that we introduce 100-200 new mutations into the human genome, but it implies that there were that many mutations between the men and their 1805 ancestor. Also, rates of mutation may not be constant across chromosomes. The article did not clarify what percentage of these mutations were found on actual genes rather than in DNA that never gets translated. Lastly, wouldn’t most of our mutations arise during the billions of cell divisions as we go through development? Which implies that different cell lines within our body would have different mutations. To actually contribute lasting new mutations to the human genome would require that 1) those mutations are specifically found in the sperm (or eggs) and 2) that the carrier actually reproduces!

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