Thursday July 19, 2018
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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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CRISPR Gene Editing can Cause Risky Collateral DNA Damage: Study

The work has implications for how CRISPR/Cas9 is used therapeutically and is likely to re-spark researchers' interest in finding alternatives to the standard CRISPR/Cas9 method for gene editing

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CRISPR/Cas9 is a type of molecular scissor technology that can alter sections of DNA in cells by cutting at specific points and introducing changes at that location.. Pixabay

The much celebrated CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technique can cause greater genetic damage in cells than was previously thought, scientists have warned.

CRISPR/Cas9 is a type of molecular scissor technology that can alter sections of DNA in cells by cutting at specific points and introducing changes at that location.

Besides extensive use in scientific research, CRISPR/Cas9 has also been seen as a promising way to create potential genome editing treatments for diseases such as HIV, cancer or sickle cell disease.

But the new research, reported in the journal Nature Biotechnology, revealed that CRISPR/Cas9 frequently caused extensive mutations, though at a distance from the target site.

Many of the cells, in both mice and humans, had large genetic rearrangements such as DNA deletions and insertions.

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CRISPR/Cas9 frequently caused extensive mutations, though at a distance from the target site.. Pixabay

These could lead to important genes being switched on or off, which could have major implications for CRISPR/Cas9 use in therapies.

In addition, some of these changes were too far away from the target site to be seen with standard genotyping methods, the researchers said.

“This is the first systematic assessment of unexpected events resulting from CRISPR/Cas9 editing in therapeutically relevant cells, and we found that changes in the DNA have been seriously underestimated before now,” said Allan Bradley, Professor at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in London.

Also Read: New Link Found Between Alcohol, Genes And Heart Failure

“It is important that anyone thinking of using this technology for gene therapy proceeds with caution, and looks very carefully to check for possible harmful effects,” Bradley added

The work has implications for how CRISPR/Cas9 is used therapeutically and is likely to re-spark researchers’ interest in finding alternatives to the standard CRISPR/Cas9 method for gene editing.

“While it is not known if genomic sites in other cell lines will be affected in the same way, this study shows that further research and specific testing is needed before CRISPR/Cas9 is used clinically,” the researchers said. (IANS)