Science Reporting

Genetic mutation has evolved in humans to cope with sugar consumption

Human evolution is of course still ongoing and a discovery has been made about a limited genetic variant that is affecting humans in relation to today’s diet. Research, published in eLife, shows how human bodies are starting to change in relation to the management of blood sugar levels. This evolutionary process has been determined by the change in diets in the last hundreds of years due to the increase in the consumption of sugary foods and carbohydrates in general.

Initially, researchers were only studying the CLTCL1 gene, a gene that is involved in the production of the protein CHC22 which plays a key role in the regulation of a glucose transporter in human fat and muscle cells. This transporter is released by hormonal insulin, which in turn reacts to higher blood glucose levels. Researchers analyzed the genomes of 2,504 people in the Global Genomes Project and those of 61 other species and realized that the gene that produces CHC22 has changed during the recent human evolutionary history.

Nearly half of the people surveyed possessed a variant of CHC22 produced by a mutated gene that became more common in recent human history as communities developed more complex ways of cooking food and agriculture. Researchers also analyzed the genomes of ancient populations and found that this variant was more present in more agricultural populations than in those that were more concerned with hunting or the random collection of food to survive. All these things suggest that the increase in carbohydrate consumption was the selective force that guided this genetic adaptation.

Does this mean that in the future, a fairly distant future in any case, humans may have defeated diabetes genetically and without external intervention? According to the researchers, further research is needed to understand how this newly discovered genetic variant can affect our physiology in the future, but what is certain is that the changes that occurred a few thousand years ago regarding our eating habits have strongly shaped, and are still doing, our evolution.

Science Reporting

VLT photographs double asteroid passing near the Earth at 70,000 mph

Using the SPHERE tool of the Very Large Telescope (VLT), a group of researchers from the European Southern Observatory obtained relatively sharp images of 1999 KW4, a double asteroid that approached the Earth recently. The results obtained show that even the VLT can be used in the context of the study of Near-Earth Objects (NEO) and in general in the identification of any dangerous objects approaching the Earth.

In addition, the feat is to be emphasized considering that the double asteroid was speeding at a speed of 70,000 miles per hour, a speed that probably would have made it impossible to take an image with any other terrestrial instrument. Moreover, this double asteroid is very similar to another system of two asteroids called Didymos and Didymoon, which in the future could in fact pose a threat to Earth so much so that NASA is planning to plan a mission to try to correct its orbit.

The researchers studied and photographed 1999 KW4, a double asteroid composed of a larger and a smaller body, which approached Earth at a minimum distance of 5.22 million miles this year. It is a binary asteroid with a total diameter of 1.3 miles, discovered as early as 1999, whose orbit is well known and which could not have posed any danger to our planet.

The researchers used SPHERE (Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet REsearch), a particular tool capable of capturing direct images of space bodies very often far away (the researchers are trying to use it to capture direct images of exoplanets) thanks to an advanced adaptive optics system able to correct the turbulence of the Earth’s atmosphere and to provide sharp images like those of space telescopes.