Why ‘Good Hair’ Matters: The first animal model of recent human evolution reveals that a mutation for thick hair does much more
The first animal model of recent human evolution reveals that a single mutation produced several traits common in East Asian peoples, from thicker hair to denser sweat glands, an international team of researchers reports.
The team, led by researchers from Harvard Medical School, Harvard University, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Massachusetts General Hospital, Fudan University and University College London, also modeled the spread of the gene mutation across Asia and North America, concluding that it most likely arose about 30,000 years ago in what is today central China. The findings are reported in the cover story of the Feb. 14 issue of Cell.
“This interdisciplinary approach yields unique insight into the generation of adaptive variation among modern humans,” said Pardis Sabeti, associate professor in the Center for Systems Biology and Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, and one of the paper’s senior authors. Sabeti is also a senior associate member at the Broad Institute.
“This paper tells a story about human evolution in three parts,” said Cliff Tabin, head of the HMS Department of Genetics and co-senior author. “The mouse model links multiple traits to a single mutation, the related association study finds these traits in humans, and computer models tell us where and when the mutation likely arose and spread.”