by Medindia Content Team on  March 20, 2006 at 4:06 PM Research News
Ape Humans? Alterations in Proteins Affects Genes.
Did you know that the genetic code of chimpanzees is so much alike the code of humans, almost a 98% similarity, and perhaps that explains why they 'ape' us. And yet, there are glaring differences, despite the 98% similarity, that make us humans. According to scientists, it was not a different set of genes that caused the difference, but a difference in the manner the genes were utilized. According to a latest theory on evolution, even small alterations in proteins, affects genes greatly.

Researchers at Duke University targeted their study on a particular gene that creates a protein, in charge of memory and perception. This protein is similar both in a chimpanzee and humans, but the researchers found that there are really minute genetic changes in the protein that had led to the evolution of the human brain and enabled it to perform better.

Gregory A. Wray, a professor of biology at Duke University who led the chimpanzee research, said What we used to think of as big, complex changes are in fact remarkably easy to achieve through changes in gene expression. This is changing the way that we think about evolution.

Marc Kirschner, a professor at Harvard Medical School, said We need to understand how you get the various kinds of novelty -- the first hand, the first eye, the first brain. It is the variety of life that needs explaining. Kirschner is also the co-author of a book, titled, The Plausibility of Life. This book looks at the biological sources of evolutionary change.

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