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Human vs. Chimp Brains

September 11, 2012

DNA modifications in chimp brains may help protect them from cancer.



Curiosities in chimp brains.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Subtle genetic differences between chimp and human brains may help explain why humans are more prone to cancer.  Georgia Tech biologist Soojin Yi and her colleagues compared DNA samples from chimps and humans.  They were looking for differences in methylation – a chemical modification of DNA that changes the way the genes are expressed.

SOOJIN YI (Georgia Institute of Technology):

We looked at about 10,000 genes.  And among these 10,000 genes, we saw about a few hundred that’s different.

Overall, the human genes were less methylated than the chimp genes.  Yi notes that DNA methylation plays a role in cancer development, and many of genes that were methylated differently in chimps and humans have been linked to cancer.  Other methylation differences were in genes linked to autism, chemical dependencies, and brain and spinal cord defects.  I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.

Gene differences in chimp brains may help account for why they suffer from cancer less than we do. (Georgia Institute of Technology)