2 Nov. 2021 – We are 98.8% similar to chimpanzees in our DNA, but we are still a different species. Within the remaining 1.2%, a key DNA sequence that was once considered junk can unlock our human uniqueness.
With the help of stem selle persuaded to become neurons, researchers identified a gene that distinguishes human nerve cells from chimpanzee nerve cells. They also found that a series of DNAs that were once considered “junk” had total control over this human-specific gene.
Only about 2% of our DNA sequences contain the codes for building proteins. Biologists have often focused on these regions by comparing our DNA with that of other species. But the remaining 98% who do not encode protein-making instructions are not wasted and have important functions.
These researchers found that the non-coding sequence regulates a gene that is crucial in human brain development. In their findings, published in Sel Stamsel, this gene was particularly active in front of the developing brain, where humans and chimpanzees differ significantly. The non-coding DNA sequence controls how the gene is used.
This finding adds a step to the sequence of events for making a human brain, gives researchers even more to do in the search to understand how we differ from our closest cousins. Understanding what makes us unique human beings can reveal new insights into conditions that only humans experience, such as schizophrenia.