Saturday, May 09, 2015

Blue Eyes? Why do people have blue eyes? You share a common mutant ancestor!

Why do people have blue eyes? Interesting human genetic story. - JR

Blue-eyed humans have a single, common ancestor

New research shows that people with blue eyes have a single, common ancestor. A team at the University of Copenhagen have tracked down a genetic mutation which took place 6-10,000 years ago and is the cause of the eye color of all blue-eyed humans alive on the planet today.
What is the genetic mutation
"Originally, we all had brown eyes," said Professor Hans Eiberg from the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine. "But a genetic mutation affecting the OCA2 gene in our chromosomes resulted in the creation of a "switch," which literally "turned off" the ability to produce brown eyes." The OCA2 gene codes for the so-called P protein, which is involved in the production of melanin, the pigment that gives colour to our hair, eyes and skin. The "switch," which is located in the gene adjacent to OCA2 does not, however, turn off the gene entirely, but rather limits its action to reducing the production of melanin in the iris -- effectively "diluting" brown eyes to blue. The switch's effect on OCA2 is very specific therefore. If the OCA2 gene had been completely destroyed or turned off, human beings would be without melanin in their hair, eyes or skin colour -- a condition known as albinism.
Limited genetic variation
Variation in the colour of the eyes from brown to green can all be explained by the amount of melanin in the iris, but blue-eyed individuals only have a small degree of variation in the amount of melanin in their eyes. "From this we can conclude that all blue-eyed individuals are linked to the same ancestor...

1 comment:

Susan Jenkins said...

As one of those mutant blue-eyed cousins, I find this fascinating. Thanks, University of Copenhagen research team.