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6-inch skeleton found in Chile not of alien: Study

Some of these mutations, though found in genes already known to cause disease, had never before been associated with bone growth or developmental disorders

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The skeleton found was not of an alien. IANS
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  • The skeleton found in Chile is not of an alien
  • Instead of an alien, it could be an infant with a bone-ageing disorder
  • The discovery earlier held the interest of many

Ruling out the possibility of the extra-terrestrial origin of a mysterious six-inch skeleton discovered in Chile, scientists have found that it was of a female, likely a foetus, who had a rare, bone-ageing disorder.

Discovered more than a decade ago in an abandoned town in the Atacama Desert, the mummified specimen, nicknamed Ata, started to garner public attention after it found a permanent home in Spain.

Standing just six inches tall with an angular, elongated skull and sunken, slanted eye sockets, the Internet began to bubble with other-worldly hullabaloo and talk of ET. But the analysis by Stanford University School of Medicine scientists suggests that Ata was, without doubt, a human.

Earlier the skeleton was thought to belong to an alien. Pixabay

This was the skeleton of a human female that had suffered severe genetic mutations, according to the study published in the journal published in the Genome Research. Ata, though most likely a foetus, had the bone composition of a six-year-old, an indication that she had a rare, bone-ageing disorder, the study found.

To understand the genetic drivers at play, the researchers extracted a small DNA sample from Ata’s ribs and sequenced the entire genome. The skeleton is approximately 40 years old, so its DNA is modern and still relatively intact. Moreover, data collected from whole-genome sequencing showed that Ata’s molecular composition aligned with that of a human genome.

Wile a small percentage of the DNA was unmatchable with human DNA, that was due to a degraded sample, not extraterrestrial biology, said one of the researchers Garry Nolan, Professor at Stanford. The genomic results confirmed Ata’s Chilean descent and turned up a slew of mutations in seven genes that separately or in combinations contribute to various bone deformities, facial malformations or skeletal dysplasia, more commonly known as dwarfism.

Also Read: Do Aliens Exist? 10 Undeniable Reasons that will make you believe in Aliens!

Some of these mutations, though found in genes already known to cause disease, had never before been associated with bone growth or developmental disorders. Knowing these new mutational variants could be useful, Nolan said, because they add to the repository of known mutations to look for in humans with these kinds of bone or physical disorders.

“For me, what really came of this study was the idea that we shouldn’t stop investigating when we find one gene that might explain a symptom. It could be multiple things going wrong, and it’s worth getting a full explanation, especially as we head closer and closer to gene therapy,” said study co-author Atul Butte of the University of California-San Francisco. IANS

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Novel Synthetic DNA Vaccines Safe To Use Against Ebola: Scientists

While there are no licensed treatments available for Ebola virus disease yet, multiple experimental therapies are being developed.

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Ebola, UNICEF. congo, DNA
A Congolese health worker administers Ebola vaccine to a woman who had contact with an Ebola sufferer in the village of Mangina in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo

Scientists, including one of Indian-origin, have found that the novel synthetic DNA vaccine is safe against Ebola virus and offers a long-term alternative to traditional vaccines.

The team, from The Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, US, optimised a shorter, dose-sparing, immunisation regimen and simplified vaccine that can be directly administered into the skin. They targeted a virus surface protein called glycoprotein.

This new approach induced rapid and protective immunity from virus challenges.

Importantly, the approach showed strong immune responses one year after the last dose, supporting the long-term immunogenicity of the vaccine — a particularly challenging area for Ebola vaccines.

Ebola, UNICEF. congo, DNA
A boy runs past a dispenser containing water mixed with disinfectant, east of Mbandaka, DRC. VOA

“Synthetic non-viral based DNA technology allows for rapid vaccine development by delivery directly into the skin, resulting in consistent, potent and rapid immunity compared to traditional vaccine approaches,” said lead researcher David B. Weiner, Director of Wistar’s Vaccine and Immunotherapy Center.

“An anti-Ebola virus DNA vaccine like this may provide an important new tool for protection, and we are excited to see what future studies will unveil,” he added.

In the study, published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, the team detected antibody levels were equal or higher to those reported for other vaccines currently being evaluated in the clinic.

“The success of intradermal delivery of a low-dose regimen is very encouraging,” said Ami Patel, Ph.D., associate staff scientist in the Weiner Lab. “The ultimate goal of our work is to create effective and safe vaccines that are optimised for field use in at-risk areas.”

Ebola, UNICEF. congo, DNA
Photo taken Sept 9, 2018, shows health workers walking with a boy suspected of having the Ebola virus at an Ebola treatment centre in Beni, Eastern Congo. VOA

Ebola virus disease is a serious and often fatal illness that can cause fever, headache, muscle pain, weakness, fatigue, diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach pain and haemorrhage (severe bleeding).

First discovered in humans in 1976 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the largest outbreak occurred in West Africa from 2014 to 2016, which claimed more than 11,000 lives, according to the World Health Organization.

Also Read: Ebola Increases The Number of Orphans in DRC: UNICEF

The death rate is about 50 per cent and the virus is spread by contact with contaminated body fluids, including blood and semen.

While there are no licensed treatments available for Ebola virus disease yet, multiple experimental therapies are being developed. (IANS)