13 May 2022

Fertility fee

Geneticists have discovered a mutation that made people susceptible to cancer

Novye Izvestia

Unlike humans, other primates rarely have cancer. In 1901-1932, scientists performed autopsies of non-human primates dying at the Philadelphia Zoo. Tumors were found in only eight of the 971 primates.

In the journal Cell Reports, NewScientist reports, a study by geneticists from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York appeared, who tried to understand why a person has a much higher risk of cancer. In the study (Huang et al., Evidence for reduced BRCA2 functional activity in Homo sapiens after divergence from the chimpanzee-human last common), they compared the genes of humans and 12 species of other primates. It turned out that the reason may be a difference in the version of the BRCA2 gene, which has mutated in us since humans became an independent species.

The BRCA2 gene is involved in DNA repair and suppresses the development of tumors. In humans, a single mutation in this gene led to a 20% drop in the ability to regenerate DNA. This may explain our high incidence of cancer.

The role of this gene in the development of tumors has been known before: people with certain variants of BRCA2 that suppress its reparative activity are even more at risk of getting cancer, especially breast and ovarian cancer.

Why BRCA2 evolved and became less active in humans than in other primates is unknown. But there is a possibility that reduced BRCA2 activity is associated with increased fertility: women with oncogenic variants of BRCA2 become pregnant more easily. That is, we received an increase in the birth rate in exchange for becoming more likely to get cancer.

Perhaps in the future, when it becomes possible to edit genes, the human BRCA2 gene can be rewritten and made similar to the gene of humanoid primates, thereby saving people from cancer.

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