For a long time, researchers were looking for a DNA that differentiates humans from mammals. In a recent study conducted at the University of Otago, scientists found about the gene that sets primates- great ape and humans, apart from other mammals.
The research was carried out as a part of a Ph.D. program by Dr. Adam O’Neill under the supervision of Professor Stephen Robertson. They discovered a gene, PLEKHG6, that is responsible for driving brain development in a different way than other species.
According to Dr. O’Neill, this DNA is what makes us human. Professor Robertson stated the aim of the research was to address the notion that our genes make our brain better functioning and bigger. Unfortunately, more research can cost a lot. For this, humans must be made susceptible to a variety of psychiatric or neurological conditions.
Discovering this gene is complicated and challenging. They found about this gene while they were studying children with a brain malfunction known as periventricular nodular heterotopia. They were able to find a genomic element that was damaged.
With the help of researchers from Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Germany, the gene was tested. This was to ensure that this DNA impacts the brain development, making them distinctive feature for primates.
Additionally, during this endeavor, scientists were able to discover more interesting facts about the human brain. According to Professor Robertson, the stem cells that distinguished primate and mammal were known. However, they didn’t know about the gene.
Dr. O’Neill mentioned that there is a short list of genetic elements that make us human. This gene is an addition to the list. He also stated that this discovery of gene will help us to have a better understanding of how the brain creates knowledge. It will be useful for helping us design strategies that can repair the damage to the brain. This can be useful in early stages where there is a lot of stem cells.
Moreover, it gives us more information related to the list of genes which are modified to cause brain malformation.
Therefore, this accomplishment proves that PLEKHG6 is one of the regulators, which humans have obtained during their evolution. This is what makes our brain exceptional. There is a need for more research to fully understand how the brain works and how the genetic elements separate us from other mammals.