According to a new study, the same gene mutation that helped our human ancestors survive frostbite might have also led to the development of arthritis.
This latest research was conducted by scientists part of the Harvard and Stanford Universities. Study results are available in the Nature Genetics.
A Gene Mutation Led to Shorter Bones and Possibly Arthritis
Research determined that early ancestors began slowly migrating out of Africa around 100,000 years ago, and moving towards Asia and Europe. In doing so, they also developed and started spreading the genetic material needed to survive colder climates.
In this study, the research team identified a previously unknown DNA region which surrounds the GDF5 gene. This is associated with joint formation and bone growth. Research detected a change in this area that is prevalent in Asians and Europeans, but rarely in Africans.
According to the study, a variant of the GDF5 gene can have two effects on the development of those carrying the gene. It can reduce their bone length and, in turn, their height, and also nearly double their risks of osteoarthritis.
“It’s clear that the genetic machinery around a gene can have a dramatic impact on how it works,” stated Terence Capellini, who was involved with the study.
The researchers also explained the link between the adaptation to colder weather and danger of developing this age-related disease. Namely, they explain that a more compact, albeit shorter body structure could have helped prevent broken bones and even incurring serious injuries.
The shorter stature may have also reduced the risk of suffering from other cold-related problems, such as frostbite, as it exposed fewer extremities and skin.
Benefits gained this way may have also outweighed the possible pains and inconvenience brought by sore joints.
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