Tibetans Evolved at Fastest Pace Ever Measured
Tibet: Tibetans from the Himalayan mountains have evolved at the fastest rate ever measured in humans. Chinese and U.S. researchers compared DNA from Han Chinese and the closely related Tibetans, who live 3 miles above them.
DNA suggests the two ethnic groups split around 2,750 years ago. The Tibetans also created more than 30 new forms of genes during those 100 generations. Most of those gene mutations were related to how Tibetans' bodies processed oxygen.
Most genes had not mutated in the Han Chinese.
The air in the Tibetan highlands contains 40% less oxygen than air at sea level. These low levels would cause most people to tire quickly, suffer headaches, and face increased infant mortality rates. But the Tibetans have genetically adapted.
The mutation of one gene in particular -- EPAS1 -- may
be a major reason Tibetans can live where they do. EPAS1
is also known as the "super athlete gene." It's related
to red blood cell production, although researchers
arenít sure how it works.
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