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Scientists Find Gene For Skin Colour

human geneMutant version makes europeans white.

Scientists believe they are beginning to solve one of the biggest mysteries in biology, which genes are responsible for the differences in human skin, eye and hair colour.

The international team of scientists believe they have found a genethat makes African zebrafish of a lighter-than-normal colour and say the same gene helps explain the light-coloured hair, skin and eyes of many Europeans.

The gene is called SLC24A5 and Penn State pharmacologist Victor Canfield found that all vertebrates, which include fish, mice and people, have a version of the gene.

Nearly all Africans and East Asians have an amino acid called alanine in that gene, while 98 percent of Europeans tested had an amino acid called threonine there. Amino acids are the building blocks of the proteins controlled by genes.

In people of European descent, pigment granules called melanosomes are fewer, smaller, and lighter than those from people of West African ancestry. The melanosomes of East Asians fall in between.

While they stress that they have not found a genetic basis for race, they say just a tiny change in a single amino acid plays a major role in causing the distinctive light European colouring.

Scientists found that one version appears to be the ‘base’ version and is found in most people of African and East Asian descent. Europeans have a mutant version that differs by only a few letters of the genetic alphabet.

The researchers injected the base human version into "golden" zebrafish embryos and found it made them develop into normal dark-striped fish. This clinched the idea that the human gene was the equivalent of the fish gene.

But these findings alone cannot explain the great range of human colouring. The researchers believe that 'multiple genes must be invoked to explain the skin pigmentation differences between Europeans and Africans.'

Now that a gene for colour has been identified, do you think there
will be lots of people who will want to change their skin colour?
Click here to join the debate:



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