In order for scientists to study human evolution, they often compare the human genome with the genomes of other species. The closeness between the species can be hard to navigate and make it difficult for scientists to define the causes of human evolution and development. A new technique developed at Stanford University allow researchers to better compare the DNA of humans to that of other species. This technique requires fusing human cells with skin cells of the other species that have been modified to act as STEM cells, allowing for the activities of the two cells to be analyzed side by side to learn more about the history and function of human DNA. In one trial, scientists found new genetic differences in the expression of the SSTRI gene that modulates neuron activity in the cerebral cortex. This discovery can help better understand diseases like Alzheimer's and Schizophrenia. In another trial of this new technique showed differences between the EVC2 gene in chimpanzees and humans, which gives clues about how the human face evolved. Researchers at Stanford University are specifically interested in how the levels of cis-regulatory elements that affect the expression of nearby genes in humans compares to the levels of cis-regulatory elements in other animals. One hurdle encountered during these experiments were any potential differences in the development between the two compared species. This difficulty was combatted by housing the DNA of the two compared animals in the same nucleus. The Human-Chimpanzee comparison experiment showed which gene expression pathways are more active in one species then the other. Since chimpanzees and humans are evolutionarily related, these comparisons can give us an insight into just how humans evolved. The new DNA comparison technique from Stanford University not only allows for evolution tracing within humans but can also help us to better understand the way neurological and genetic diseases function and are passed on.
Article Link: https://news.stanford.edu/2021/03/17/new-technique-reveals-genes-underlying-human-evolution/
Related Link: https://news.stanford.edu/news/2015/november/trace-invention-tools-112315.html