Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

All Humans Are Mutants, Say Scientists

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the must-scramble-some-eggs dept.

Biotech 309

Hugh Pickens writes "In 1935, JBS Haldane, one of the founders of modern genetics, studied a group of men with the blood disease hemophilia and speculated that there would be about 150 new mutations in each human being. Now BBC reports that scientists have used next generation sequencing technology to produce a far more direct and reliable estimate of the number of mutations by looking at thousands of genes belonging to two Chinese men who are distantly related, having shared a common ancestor who was born in 1805. To establish the rate of mutation, the team examined an area of the Y chromosome which is unique because, apart from rare mutations, the Y chromosome is passed unchanged from father to son so mutations accumulate slowly over the generations. Despite many generations of separation, researchers found only 12 differences among all the DNA letters examined. The two Y chromosomes were still identical at 10,149,073 of the 10,149,085 letters examined."

cancel ×

309 comments

Comes as no surprise.. (4, Funny)

scalpod (666558) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290133)

...to the SubGenius and Devo fans in the house.

May I opt out on the yellow spandex? (3, Funny)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290135)

looks uncomfortable.

Re:May I opt out on the yellow spandex? (1, Funny)

Coraon (1080675) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290207)

may I as well, but I do want the eye beams that can blast through a mountain.

Re:May I opt out on the yellow spandex? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29290253)

I for one, welcome us all! :)

Re:May I opt out on the yellow spandex? (3, Funny)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290629)

Hey, I was wearing yellow & spandex this morning, you insensitive clod!

(I bike to work.)

What about non-humans? (2, Interesting)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290143)

Does this apply to non-humans as well?

Article title seems stupid to me (4, Insightful)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290343)

Given what we know about biology, every living thing, including viruses, are mutants (or at least descendants of mutants).

The article title has to be one of the more braindead ones I've seen here on Slashdot, and I've been around for a while. (And somehow I don't understand how it's connected with the information in the summary.)

OTOH, I'm real tired....

Re:Article title seems stupid to me (2, Insightful)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290437)

Yes, I was thinking the same. The very idea of evolution is based on mutation, and Evolution requires it as well.

Re:Article title seems stupid to me (1)

gnick (1211984) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290813)

I actually enjoy being a mutant. Beats the hell out of being some single-cell swamp dweller. Hell, even if you're in the 6000 year-old earth crowd, I like the fact that we've got a few more choices then would be available from pairing Adam and Eve's very limited set of chromosomes.

Re:Article title seems stupid to me (5, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290481)

I'd suspect that the actual paper is probably more interesting in some way, nobody would waste time, money, and perfectly good grad students to determine that mutation does, in fact, occur in humans. Quantification of mutation rates, examination of which regions mutate quickly and which are highly conserved, and the like are all legitimate and nonobvious.

Probably just didn't survive a collision with the pop-science filter very well...

Re:Article title seems stupid to me (1)

notaspy (457709) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290635)

So they're patentable?

"Quantification of mutation rates, examination of which regions mutate quickly and which are highly conserved, and the like are all legitimate and nonobvious."

Re:Article title seems stupid to me (0)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290949)

1) Stop giving them ideas.

2) Do not, ever--I fucking repeat--EVER top post.

3) Learn how to use quote tags.

Re:Article title seems stupid to me (3, Interesting)

nine-times (778537) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290705)

Yeah, the "all humans are mutants" angle doesn't have much to it. Of course we're mutants insofar as we're the product of evolution, and evolution requires mutation. Without mutation, you wouldn't get new genetic differences to be weeded out or passed on. So yes, life is a mutation and we're all mutants.

It will be interesting now that we could be able to sequence your DNA and your parents' DNA, figure out exactly what mutations you have (if any) from the previous generation, and possibly know what those mutations do. Maybe in the future we'll be able to map all of our genetic family trees in detail, figure out when traits were introduced, and see what patterns emerge. Maybe those random mutations aren't so random.

Re:Article title seems stupid to me (2, Interesting)

thtrgremlin (1158085) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290623)

Actually, I would expect that this applies a whole lot less to species that reproduce asexually because while mutations still occur, you do not get an opportunity to see that mutation mix and match with other combinations of genes, only clones. For example, cell 1 with mutation A and cell 2 with mutation B isn't going to breed and in future generations possibly produce cells with mutation AB but by normal chance that both could occur at random.

Sounds like they simply confirmed with real data what before was simply believed to be extremely likely.

Re:Article title seems stupid to me (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290707)

Actually, I would expect that this applies a whole lot less to species that reproduce asexually because while mutations still occur, you do not get an opportunity to see that mutation mix and match with other combinations of genes, only clones. For example, cell 1 with mutation A and cell 2 with mutation B isn't going to breed ...

In short, this article doesn't apply to the normal /. reader...

The analysis should be done by race and ethnicity (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29290567)

This analysis of genetic variation should be done by race and ethnicity. We know that Africans differ much more from Europeans and Japanese than the latter differ from each other. In other words, the genetic distance between Europeans and Japanese is much less than the genetic distance between Africans and other racial groups.

Even small genetic differences can have profound effects on appearance -- and intelligence. Consider the case of bonobos -- a sub-species of chimpanzee. The genetic difference between bonobos and Africans is a mere 2 percent. Yet this 2% means that Africans have the intellect ability to speak, to join gangs, to rape, and to kill -- at will and with considerable forethought (i. e., with the intent qualifying for the 1st-degree murder charge defined by laws of most Western nations )

Although Africans are much smarter than chimpanzees (due to evolution), Europeans and Japanese are smarter than Africans. The IQ of the typical European or Japanese is about 20 points greater than the IQ of the typical African.

From the article (1)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290187)

"...was more difficult than finding an ant's egg in an emperor's rice store."

I have got to work that into an ordinary conversation someday: priceless!

Um... statistically significant? (1)

Millennium (2451) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290199)

Forgive me if I'm wrong. I'm fairly sure I have at least a basic grasp of the idea of statistical sampling, as used to infer the traits of a large population using a smaller representative sample from that population. But don't you still need a sample size bigger than two to make inferences about all of humanity?

Re:Um... statistically significant? (3, Insightful)

poopdeville (841677) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290347)

No. You don't. The certainty of the inference is just low. This is a fine start, and new data will be added as genetic sequencing becomes cheaper.

Re:Um... statistically significant? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29290349)

Technically, since the sample was the difference between the two, the sample size is one.

Re:Um... statistically significant? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29290351)

Also, take into account the following facts:

1. Y chromosomes don't recombinate.
2. Mutations
3. ???
4. Publish!!!

It's funny. Laugh. (1)

pjt33 (739471) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290723)

Y chromosomes don't recombinate.

No Y-combinators? So how do you do recursion?

Re:It's funny. Laugh. (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290853)

Y chromosomes don't recombinate.

No Y-combinators? So how do you do recursion?

here you go [youtube.com] .

Re:Um... statistically significant? (2, Insightful)

Thinboy00 (1190815) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290507)

Forgive me if I'm wrong. I'm fairly sure I have at least a basic grasp of the idea of statistical sampling, as used to infer the traits of a large population using a smaller representative sample from that population. But don't you still need a sample size bigger than two to make inferences about all of humanity?

The statistics are in the number of base pairs and the amount of time since common ancestor, not the number of people. So we know that in that lineage, mutations occur at a given rate which I'm too lazy to calculate.

Re:Um... statistically significant? (2, Interesting)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290819)

The statistics are in the number of base pairs and the amount of time since common ancestor, not the number of people. So we know that in that lineage, mutations occur at a given rate which I'm too lazy to calculate.

But it's restricted to two people, or not even that, it could be just one different ancestor. Maybe one's grandfather was exposed to radiation, or mutagenic chemicals.

Re:Um... statistically significant? (2, Insightful)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290511)

And that is why you only have a basic grasp of statistical sampling as it is practised in the modern world.

Aha! Evidence.... (4, Funny)

jdgeorge (18767) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290201)

And here we have scientific evidence that human mutation is working as Designed.

Weird, I'm suddenly craving a bowl of spaghetti.

Re:Aha! Evidence.... (4, Funny)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290285)

Don't forget, His Noodly Appendages must be served slightly al dente (unless you're an infidel who likes squishy appendages), and the proper attire is, of course, pirate.

Re:Aha! Evidence.... (3, Informative)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290675)

Sacrilege!

The Fourth Council of Ristorante determined that there is no such thing as "slightly" al dente. It is al dente or not al dente; there is no in-between. The path to damnation is lined with compromise, and we'll have none of that here!

Glory to his name, Ramen.

Re:Aha! Evidence.... (4, Funny)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290959)

Sacrilege!

The Fourth Council of Ristorante determined that there is no such thing as "slightly" al dente. It is al dente or not al dente; there is no in-between. The path to damnation is lined with compromise, and we'll have none of that here!

Glory to his name, Ramen.

Just throw it at the wall and see if it sticks - that's how all important decisions are made in politics, marketing (but I repeat myself), religion, the workplace ... if you used your noodle, you'd realize that!

Re:Aha! Evidence.... (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290917)

I'm a pretty strict Pastafarian, but you gnocchi is better.

Re:Aha! Evidence.... (2, Funny)

PrescriptionWarning (932687) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290595)

how coincidental, their next study is whether "All Humans are Zombies". That bowl of spaghetti is really brainssssss!

Well that's all very interesting (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29290203)

...but how do you account for the dramatically higher rates of "mutantism" amongst the population subset "trailer park residents", or the subset that has dead cars parked on the front "lawn"?

Re:Well that's all very interesting (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290499)

HR brainz

Re:Well that's all very interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29290955)

...but how do you account for the dramatically higher rates of "mutantism" amongst the population subset "trailer park residents", or the subset that has dead cars parked on the front "lawn"?

Probably the same way we account for the dramatically higher rates of "mutanism" amongst the population subset "slashdot" reader, or the subset that are SCIFI fan...

X-Men 2 was wrong then? (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290223)

In the movie, I seem to remember them saying that the mutations come from the father, how women are mutants I don't know. I guess they just wanted to give Pyro more lines.

Re:X-Men 2 was wrong then? (5, Funny)

loteck (533317) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290563)

I seem to remember them saying that the mutations come from the father, how women are mutants I don't know.

I have shocking news for you, you may want to have a seat: women have fathers, just like men. Disturbing, I know.

Re:X-Men 2 was wrong then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29291045)

Be nice, his ignorance is perfectly OK - he's posting on Slashdot.

Yay! Mutant Super Powers! (4, Funny)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290243)

My mutant super power is my ability to get depressed and lose focus. Oh man, I wish I'd gotten that cool one that gives you resistance to malaria and painfully inflamed fingers and toes. Mine seems kinda useless by comparison.

Re:Yay! Mutant Super Powers! (1)

bertoelcon (1557907) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290859)

Really, mine is the ability to troll myself in my sleep. Dam Internet ruining my dreams.

Professor X was right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29290249)

From what I think he said in a early X-men comic (number 50 something) during a television talkshow with the other guest as the design engineer of the Sentinels.

Ammo for the ID nutjobs? (-1, Troll)

vigmeister (1112659) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290257)

Ummm.. First off, aren't these 'mutations' coupled with the principle of survival of the fittest what leads to evolution? (Not a rhetorical question - simply curious)

Secondly, I am not willing to do the calculations necessary (they are definitely NOT back of the envelope), but can any biologist tell me if this rate is slow enough for the ID crowd to use this as ammunition to forward their propaganda? Just want to brace myself :)

Re:Ammo for the ID nutjobs? (1)

beelsebob (529313) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290525)

Any rate would be slow enough for them to use as propoganda. The thing is not to go "zomg, they have propoganda" but instead to just ignore them and get on with applying the scientific method. Remember, the key to science is to never ever ever say "I know exactly how it works" instead to say "hey, I have decent evidence that this is how it works", and to be prepared to scratch/adapt your theory at any moment when some contradictory evidence comes along.

Re:Ammo for the ID nutjobs? (1)

Thinboy00 (1190815) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290537)

It doesn't matter if it's slow enough -- the ID crowd will either cite it as "evidence" that "evolution !exists" or they will say something like "God^H^H^H The Designer is clearly controlling [bullshit][bullshit][bullshit]". Those people have no shame and no logic.

Re:Ammo for the ID nutjobs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29290557)

Why is your response to a scientific study to ask whether "it will give ammunition to ID proponents"? Evolution is science, the question should be "does this information support the dominant theory?" The way you are thinking sounds just as dogmatic (bad) as the ID proponents.

Re:Ammo for the ID nutjobs? (1)

vigmeister (1112659) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290965)

Evaluating whether this supports evolution is a personal experience,you insensitive clod!

On a more serious note, this is not my only response. In fact, the first part of my post queries if these 'mutaitons' are the same ones that contribute to evolution. And no, I sincerely do not know the answer from the information given in the article.

Also, the reason for worrying about this being ammo for ID proponents is because high on their agenda is to sound legitimate by using scientific data to mask the hand waving that lies underneath their explanation. It matters a lot because a significant part of the society I live in believes in this bullshit including courts. If I am going to hear this argument in a discussion, I would like to explain it scientifically.

Lastly, you are perfectly correct that I am dogmatic about my refutation of ID and creationism. Not because of the statement of those theories, but because of the irrational way in which they are 'proven'.

If someone told me that there exists an even prime number other than 2, I would find it rather incredulous and be very highly skeptical about it since I can disprove it logically. I would, however, dogmatically dismiss the person if their explanation was that I should unquestioningly believe in it so that I may be rewarded for my trust when I die. Since I cannot disprove an illogical argument logically, the only way to refute it is rather dogmatically. It's not about not believing the statement. It is about not having sufficient reason to believe in it.

Why? (1, Insightful)

copponex (13876) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290589)

Even if it was ammo, would you really listen to someone who believed that humans were formed from dust or a clot of blood and continue to believe the parlor tricks of old mystical texts?

Say anything you want to support the ID crowd, but the only argument they have is faith. Faith is meaningless for science.

When it comes down to it, the most faithful do not go to see their priest if their baby is sick. They take it to a doctor, because science and medicine work, and no matter how much they want to deny it, faith does not.

Re:Why? (1, Insightful)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290937)

Depends on who you ask... Some of the "most faithful" let their baby die a slow painful death while they pray, dance with a rattlesnake and babble incoherently.

Re:Why? (1)

caerwyn (38056) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290985)

Say anything you want to support the ID crowd, but the only argument they have is faith. Faith is meaningless for science.

When it comes down to it, the most faithful do not go to see their priest if their baby is sick. They take it to a doctor, because science and medicine work, and no matter how much they want to deny it, faith does not.

If only this were true. Children unfortunately die every year because parents rely on faith healing instead of actual medicine- and in some states in the US, are protected by law when they do so.

Crap (1)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290259)

So we aren't planning to go ahead with the Sentinel program I hope. Anyone have a list of politicians I can contact to try and convince them to vote no against Mutant cleansing?

Quality reporting (3, Informative)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290261)

SMBC [smbc-comics.com] is completely accurate on this count.

Re:Quality reporting (3, Interesting)

piemonkey (1628149) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290375)

SMBC [smbc-comics.com] is completely accurate on this count.

Yep, it's obvious that we're all mutants, how else does evolution happen? The bbc seems to have missed the point, which to me is that they've now got a decent (they claim) estimate of the rate of mutation. This is, however infinitely less interesting than the bbc title.

Re:Quality reporting (3, Funny)

HeronBlademaster (1079477) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290421)

On behalf of everyone who has never seen SMBC before, allow me to say:

Thank you.

P.S.: I hate you.

P.P.S.: If I lose my job over this, can I crash at your place?

I get 450 mutations per generation (4, Interesting)

peter303 (12292) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290267)

Y = 1/300th total chromosome
3600 mutations total
8 generations in 200 years
450 per generation
5 in protein coding section of genome

Re:I get 450 mutations per generation (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29290443)

Y = 1/300th total chromosome

How do you figure that? Humans have 24 chromosomes [accessexcellence.org] , so Y = 1/24, by my count.

Re:I get 450 mutations per generation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29290555)

Y = 1/300th total chromosome

How do you figure that? Humans have 24 chromosomes [accessexcellence.org] , so Y = 1/24, by my count.

the Y chromosome is the smallest chromosome.... 1 is the largest... 2 is the second largest... and so on.... thus, in terms of total amount of DNA, Y is about 1/300 th of the total chromosomal DNA

Re:I get 450 mutations per generation (2, Informative)

CaseCrash (1120869) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290663)

According to this [wikipedia.org] I get closer to 1/53

Total bases: 3,079,843,747

Y Chromosome: 57,741,652

3,079,843,747 / 57,741,652 = 53.338...

so about one 53rd

Re:I get 450 mutations per generation (1)

CaseCrash (1120869) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290755)

Oh, yeah, which is 80 mutations per generation.

Y Total: ~ 1 / 53
Mutations in Y: 12
Generations: 8

Mutations per generation: 53.338 * 12 / 8 = ~ 80

Re:I get 450 mutations per generation (1)

pjt33 (739471) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290783)

OTOH taking from the summary the figure of 10.149.073 bases examined we get 1/303.5 of the bases covered, so either peter303 was just a bit sloppy doing the write-up or managed by fluke to get almost exactly the correct figure. I'm inclined to be charitable and go with the former.

Re:I get 450 mutations per generation (1)

cmiller173 (641510) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290711)

The Y chromosome spans about 58 million base pairs (the building blocks of DNA) and represents almost 2 percent of the total DNA in cells.

http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/chromosome=Y [nih.gov]

Chromosome 1 is the largest human chromosome, spanning about 247 million base pairs (the building blocks of DNA) and representing approximately 8 percent of the total DNA in cells.

http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/chromosome=1 [nih.gov]

Re:I get 450 mutations per generation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29290677)

On your own link, you can see that the Y-chromosome is one of the shortest.
But Wikipedia turns up the numbers: Y=60 million base pairs, on a total of about 3 billion base pairs, so about 1/50th.

Re:I get 450 mutations per generation (1)

arielCo (995647) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290775)

Y = 1/300th total chromosome 3600 mutations total 8 generations in 200 years 450 per generation 5 in protein coding section of genome

And no superpowers yet... :(

That cant be right (4, Funny)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290269)

That cant be generally true otherwise all Chinese people would look identical. oh wait...

Re:That cant be right (1)

Icegryphon (715550) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290371)

Well they actually do look different,
a part from they all have black hair, brown eyes, and oh shii-
nevermind.

In Mother Russia (0, Offtopic)

JohnnyComeLately (725958) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290279)

In Mother Russia, the mutants are Humans.

Re:In Mother Russia (1)

k3vlar (979024) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290533)

In Mother Russia, the mutants are Humans.

Goes to show how long it's been since this meme was funny when it gets mangled this badly. "In Soviet Russia, road forks you!" ...There is no way to work the current topic into this meme, either.

tmnt (1)

Farlan (1145095) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290313)

I guess we'll have to wait a few million years for teenage mutant ninja turtles to walk the streets of NYC... Splinter may come earlier, have you seen the size of those rats in NYC?

Does that mean I can fly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29290353)

Hold on let me find out ....... aaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeee !!!!!!

"All humans are mutants" (1)

Perp Atuitie (919967) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290361)

Some more than others.

Weird Headline (4, Interesting)

Alphanos (596595) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290367)

Rather than making me think that all humans are mutants, this made me think: Wow, over a runtime of 204 years, the DNA copying process has an accuracy of 99.99988%, or an error rate of only 0.00012%.

I think we'll be hard-pressed to replicate that level of awesomeness in computers anytime soon.

Re:Weird Headline (4, Interesting)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290485)

Uh, we do all the time.

The diploid human genome is 8 gigabases. Each base encodes 2 bits of data. That is 4GB of data per genome. Let's say that a gamete is produced after 1000 generations of cells from the fertilized egg (no idea what the right number is, but I suspect that the true figure is lower). That means that 4TB of data is being copied, with an error rate of 450 bits.

If I want I can set up two 4TB raids on my server at home (assuming I had more disk space), and issue the command dd if=/dev/mdx of=/dev/mdy bs=1M count=4000000. Then I could do a diff on the two volumes. I'd be shocked if they had any errors at all.

These kinds of error rates are actually not all that uncommon with computers.

Now, the 204 year bit sounds impressive, but it isn't like a piece of DNA lasted 204 years without any decay. Instead it was copied repeatedly over that time. If I copied that 4TB hard drive once every 25 years (generation time) onto a brand new drive (assuming that you could keep making them compatible) I don't think that getting the data across 200 years without any bit-flips is really that tall of an order. Sure, technology will change, but that really is a different matter, and I doubt that any commodity computer technology used in the next 200 years will do any worse than what we have today.

Error rates (2, Funny)

mollog (841386) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290777)

If I want I can set up two 4TB raids on my server at home (assuming I had more disk space), and issue the command dd if=/dev/mdx of=/dev/mdy bs=1M count=4000000. Then I could do a diff on the two volumes. I'd be shocked if they had any errors at all.

If you turn off the error correction and the sparing of unusable sectors, you would indeed be shocked. Here's an idea, buy some of those video disk drives that Seagate makes.

Re:Weird Headline (2, Funny)

nine-times (778537) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290845)

Now, the 204 year bit sounds impressive, but it isn't like a piece of DNA lasted 204 years without any decay. Instead it was copied repeatedly over that time. If I copied that 4TB hard drive once every 25 years (generation time) onto a brand new drive (assuming that you could keep making them compatible) I don't think that getting the data across 200 years without any bit-flips is really that tall of an order.

Yeah, but can you get the drives to make their own replacement drives every 25 years?

Re:Weird Headline (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29290509)

Rather than making me think that all humans are mutants, this made me think: Wow, over a runtime of 204 years, the DNA copying process has an accuracy of 99.99988%, or an error rate of only 0.00012%.

Hardly. They only considered people who'd already proved to be viable organisms (survived the whole gestation thing through to childbirth and beyond). That automatically ignores a large proportion of copying errors.

Re:Weird Headline (1)

AlexBirch (1137019) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290527)

That's of successful copies... The Y chromosome is highly conserved because there is no back up to it.

So the successful rate is high for this highly conserved region of successful copies, but what about the non-successful mutations? E.g., All the stocks that my grandfather invested in 1900 and that are still around today, have made me a lot of money. He had a great accuracy investing rate.

Re:Weird Headline (2, Interesting)

thpr (786837) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290593)

Wow, over a runtime of 204 years, the DNA copying process has an accuracy of 99.99988%, or an error rate of only 0.00012%.

While I agree that the level of change is reasonably slow, I think you've taken the conclusion a bit too far in inferring the observed rate of change matches transcription accuracy.

The reason I would be cautious about extending observed mutation rate to infer transcription accuracy is that there is likely to be significant selection bias, similar to how "old furniture" always appears to be great quality (because anything that isn't great quality is in a landfill). Any fatal mutations would never progress and therefore can't be detected by this method. Thus, the 0.00012% is a (very) loose lower bound on the transcription error rate.

To follow your computer analogy, it's like saying a program running for 204 years only produces a wrong answer 0.00012% of the time *that it produces an answer*. What you may be missing is the 50% (making up a number) of the time that it dumped stack because a bounds check failed due to an error.

Re:Weird Headline (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29290763)

It is pretty awesome. And there is a lot of cellular chemistry that is devoted to detecting and fixing errors on the fly during the copying process.

But keep in mind that: A) some copying errors get weeded out if they are too severe (unsuccessful conceptions, unsuccessful pregnancies, etc.), B) the runtime applies only to the reproductive cell lineage, which are fairly carefully set aside early on in the growth process, and which also experience a very strong selection process as the cells are produced (e.g., all those defective sperm and egg cells that don't even get the opportunity to meet their mates because they don't swim properly, have the wrong proteins in the cell membranes, or don't get released).

In other words, it's not just the reliability of the DNA replication process itself that helps with the statistics, but the subsequent processes that determine which of the resulting reproductive cells get their genetic material passed to the next generation. It's kind of like making thousands of copies of something by a pretty good process, and then having a screening process that also throws away a large fraction of the copies, especially the ones that are seriously defective.

Okay, because I know you're going to ask for it: it's like building millions of cars and then only selling the ones that can drive off the lot under their own power, and then using those "driveable" ones to copy the next generation. So, even if the copying process were somewhat error-prone, the selection process is weeding out the really bad copies that were made when the guys on the assembly line were having a bad day.

The limitations of the DNA replication process are such that there are plenty of mutant cells in your body as a result of the copying that has gone on since your conception. The more innocuous mutant cells are things like moles and polyps. The worst of them you know as cancer cells. Copy errors are one of the reasons the DNA replication process has to be good for a big, multicellular creature that lives a fairly long lifetime.

At that rate... (1)

postermmxvicom (1130737) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290829)

How genetically similar would we be to our ancestors at historically, scientifically or otherwise interesting times? At Creation? The appearance of Homo sapiens? The destruction of the Death Star?

I have my answers, you'll be graded in the morning.

Re:Weird Headline (1)

sorak (246725) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290905)

Rather than making me think that all humans are mutants, this made me think: Wow, over a runtime of 204 years, the DNA copying process has an accuracy of 99.99988%, or an error rate of only 0.00012%.

I think we'll be hard-pressed to replicate that level of awesomeness in computers anytime soon.

Yeah. That is like reading an study entitled "99.99988% of bears are toilet trained" and coming up with the headline "New study show that bears crap in the woods!"

A more interesting variation should be done (3, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290397)

Basically, they should be looking at the men that are from the same place (assuming that one of the two live in the exact same area and others ppl can be found). I think that they will find many of them have the same sets of mutations. The reason is that I believe that many of these mutations are from virus, not from random mutations. If from radiation/chemical (i.e. random), then you will not see the same mutations across ppl that exist in same area. But if from virus, you will see that many of these are similar (though possibly not in the exact same area of the strands).

Re:A more interesting variation should be done (1)

piemonkey (1628149) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290475)

The reason is that I believe that many of these mutations are from virus, not from random mutations.

A virus exists to invade a cell and use the cell machinery to produce as many copies of itself as it can, this inevitably kills the host cell, meaning that any cells invaded by a virus are destroyed by it (or killed by the immune system to prevent them from producing more virus copies). This aside, viruses don't change your DNA, they add their DNA (or RNA) to yours, which means that it doesn't invade any particular chromosome, so the fact that they singled out the Y chromosome would mean that no viral DNA would be included.

Re:A more interesting variation should be done (1)

Grimnir512 (1449641) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290569)

I thought one of the things about cells was that it could take DNA strands and merge them into existing chromosomes? Correct my if I'm wrong, it's been a while since I've done biology.

Cause of mutations? Speculation is not proof. (1)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290565)

"I think that they will find many of them have the same sets of mutations. The reason is that I believe that many of these mutations are from virus[es], not from random mutations."

That would be an interesting direction of investigation.

Quote from the press release: [sanger.ac.uk] "Fortunately, most of these [mutations] are harmless and have no apparent effect on our health or appearance." They don't know that. That is ENTIRELY speculation.

Re:A more interesting variation should be done (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29290727)

in order to prove this point you would need to sequence parents and offspring to show that the mutations are de novo and not inherited. It is highly unlikely that a virus could cause point mutations or single nucleotide polymorphisms. A more likely explanation for people in a region sharing similar patterns of "mutations" is that the mutation arose in a previous generation from which both individuals descended... a.k.a. they're related, possibly distantly, but still related.... Now it is possible that there can be selective pressures on different genomice loci that causes them to be selectively modified together (as in a change in one may compensate for a change in the other)... but that's a more complicated explanation... back to the main point, there is no reason to suspect viral causes in something like this.... DNA replication is a stochastic process... while there are checks for error correction, mistakes happen... you can have nonrandom distribution of mutations without requiring virii as well... there are simply regions that are more prone to errors during copying, perhaps due to how chromatin is wrapped in these regions or how the sequence is in these regions... classic examples are trinucleotide repeat diseases like huntington's diseases.... because you have a long stretch of short repeated sequences, it allows the DNA to slip in its alignment and thus copy the region too extra times... such expansions can lead to disease....

Try Alabama (4, Funny)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290451)

Try this in Alabama, where they can use the terms wife,mother,and daughter interchangeably.

Teenage Mutant Ninja... (1)

Conditioner (1405031) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290459)

We are all Teenage Mutants...

So if you start with Adam and Eve... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29290473)

...then it sounds about right.

only looked at 20% of chromsome Y (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29290543)

It's 57,772,954 base pairs:
http://genome.ucsc.edu/cgi-bin/hgTracks?org=Human&db=hg18&position=chrY

so ... (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290545)

That's off to the sewers to all of you, mutants !

so females evolve faster? (2, Funny)

v1 (525388) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290561)

if the y chromosome remains relatively unchanged, and the X is subject to cross splicing with other x chromosomes (from either parent) that must mean that females at least as far as the sex-linked traits are concerned) evolves much faster than males, since there's rarely any opportunity for diversity in the Y chromosome?

So next time a woman calls you "barbaric" etc you can say Got that right!

Re:so females evolve faster? (4, Informative)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290651)

No. You forget that men get an X also. And they don't get a back up, so any mutation in the X is more likely to show up in men.

In other words, the X evolves faster than the Y, and as men only get one X, anything on a single X becomes FAR more important to the men then it is to the women. It is only things that are on BOTH X chromosomes that are important to women.

Re:so females evolve faster? (1)

coolsnowmen (695297) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290731)

Interesting, but as a previous poster said- the Y chromosome is only 1/300 of the total gene pool I posses. So .333% is slower to evolve, not everything that I am.

Are we not men? (2, Funny)

crowspeaker (705554) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290605)

We are D-E-V-O!

Actually, only 4 mutations (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29290703)

8 of the 12 mutations were from the cell lines used during the work.

Fun article, though mutation is sporatic not const (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29290715)

Fun article. Not statistic but fun nonetheless.
For those who don't know systematics, the Y is used precisely because it changes little over time. Ditto for mitochondrial DNA (which you get from Mom alone). The idea is to determine relatedness via differences and commonality. The y changes slowly therefore more commonality, so easy to make a tree. The 'non-coding' regions are being found to contain transcription factors, controlling factors, and lost bits of mutation or viruses (you have retroviruses in your DNA fyi).

Too little, too late (4, Insightful)

macraig (621737) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290719)

We've already taken control of our own evolution, for better or worse:

"It is hoped that the findings may lead to new ways to reduce mutations and provide insights into human evolution."

Does anyone else see the conflict of interest inherent in that statement? This is what we humans do: we change the system before we even understand it. We try to "cure" autism before we even grasp its genetic or evolutionary significance.

"We are finally obtaining good reliable estimates of genetic features that are urgently needed to understand who we are genetically."

We won't ever be able to get an accurate answer to this question: we've already been busy contaminating the evidence. We worry about seeding Mars or other planets with terrestrial microbes before we get a chance to conclusively rule out independent signs of life, but we think nothing of poisoning our own genetic well before we even understand what's down there and why.

fact check : fail! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29290721)

They looked at thousands of genes in the Y chromosomes of two Chinese men.

There are (at current count) only about 70 genes on chromsome Y.

Typical mass market science reporting.

Almost identical 'Y' chromosomes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29290821)

And *still* we are all X-men ?

"Despite many generations of separation" (3, Insightful)

SwashbucklingCowboy (727629) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290893)

7-10 generations isn't that many...

Y chromosome is special (3, Interesting)

jesser (77961) | more than 4 years ago | (#29290935)

The Y chromosome [wikipedia.org] doesn't get to recombine [wikipedia.org] , so measuring the mutation rate of the Y chromosome only gives us a limited understanding of mutations in general.

Lack of recombination means you don't get to measure mutations that consist of genes being brought together for the first time in an individual. It also eliminates entire classes of accidental mutations. On the other hand, it removes the opportunity for some types of in-cell DNA repair [wikipedia.org] .

Furthermore, the Y chromosome is less interesting than most. It contains very few working genes, precisely because it is not subject to the most important [wikipedia.org] DNA repair mechanism of all: sexual reproduction.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...