10 Super Cool Genetic Mutations Found In Humans
#1. Crystal-Clear Underwater Vision (Aquaman)
The Moken spend eight months of the year on boats or stilt houses. They only return to land to get essential items, which they acquire by bartering foods or shells collected from the ocean. They gather resources from the sea using traditional methods, which means no modern fishing poles, masks, or diving gear. Children are responsible for collecting food, such as clams or sea cucumbers, from the sea floor. Through this repetitive and consistent task, their eyes are now capable of changing shape when underwater to increase light refraction. Thus, they can easily distinguish between edible clams and ordinary rocks even when many meters below water.
When tested, the Moken children had underwater vision twice as sharp as European children. However, it seems that this is an adaptation that we might all possess if our environment demanded it, since researchers have trained European children to perform underwater tasks as successfully as the Moken.
#2. Super-Dense Bones (Superman)
In one such instance, a boy from Midwestern America was in a horrible car accident and walked away from it without so much as a fractured finger. This prompted doctors and scientists to examine his kin and, to their amazement, they discovered that no one in his family had ever broken a bone, including a 93-year-old grandparent.
There is a slight side effect to the “unbreakable bone” condition though. Some people with the LRP5 mutation will also exhibit bony protruding growths on the roof of their mouth.
#3. Tolerance For Coldness (Dr Freeze)
People native to cold climates have higher basal metabolic rates (around 50 percent higher) than those accustomed to temperate climates. Also, they can maintain their body temperatures better without shivering and have relatively fewer sweat glands on the body and more on the face. In one study, researchers tested different races to see how their skin temperatures changed when exposed to cold. They found that Inuits were able to maintain the highest skin temperature of any group tested, followed by other Native Americans.
These types of adaptations partly explain why aboriginal Australians can sleep on the ground during cold nights (without shelter or clothing) with no ill effects and why Inuits can live much of their lives in subzero temperatures.
The human body is much better suited at adjusting to heat than to cold, so it’s rather impressive that people manage to live at all in freezing temperatures, let alone thrive.
#4. Resistance To HIV
Take HIV, for example. Some people have a genetic mutation that disables their copy of the CCR5 protein. HIV uses that protein as a doorway into human cells. So, if a person lacks CCR5, HIV can’t enter their cells, and they’re extremely unlikely to become infected with the disease.
That being said, scientists say that people with this mutation are resistant rather than immune to HIV. A few individuals without this protein have contracted and even died from AIDS. Apparently, some unusual types of HIV have figured out how to use proteins other than CCR5 to invade cells. This type of resourcefulness is why viruses are so scary.
Folks with two copies of the defective gene are most resistant to HIV. Currently, that includes only about 1 percent of Caucasians and is even more rare in other ethnicities.
#5. Can’t Get High Cholesterol
More specifically, they lack working copies of a gene known as PCSK9, and while it’s usually unlucky to be born with a missing gene, in this case, it seems to have some positive side effects.
After scientists discovered the relationship between this gene (or lack thereof) and cholesterol about 10 years ago, drug companies have worked frantically to create a pill that would block PCSK9 in other individuals. The drug is close to getting FDA approval. In early trials, patients who have taken it have experienced as much as a 75-percent reduction in their cholesterol levels.
So far, scientists have only found the mutation in a handful of African Americans, and those with it have the benefit of a 90-percent reduced risk of heart disease.
#6. Malaria Resistance
To understand how that works, we have to explore the basics of both diseases.Malaria is a type of parasite carried by mosquitoes that can lead to death (about 660,000 people per year) or at the very least make someone feel at death’s door. Malaria does its dirty work by invading red blood cells and reproducing. After a couple days, new malaria parasites burst out of the inhabited blood cell, destroying it. They then invade other red blood cells. This cycle continues until the parasites are stopped through treatment, the body’s defense mechanisms, or death. This process causes a loss of blood and weakens the lungs and liver. It also increases blood clotting, which can spark a coma or seizure.
Sickle cell anemia causes changes in the shape and makeup of red blood cells, which makes it difficult for them to flow through the blood stream and deliver adequate levels of oxygen. However, because the blood cells are mutated, they confuse the malaria parasite, making it difficult for it to attach and infiltrate the blood cells. Consequently, those who have sickle cells are naturally protected against malaria.
You can get the anti-malaria benefits without actually having sickle cells, so long as you’re a carrier of the sickle cell gene. To get sickle cell anemia, a person has to inherit two copies of the mutated gene, one from each parent. If they only get one, they have enough abnormal hemoglobin to resist malaria yet will never develop full-fledged anemia.
Because of its strong protection against malaria, the sickle cell trait has become highly naturally selected in areas of the world where malaria is widespread, with as much 10–40 percent of people carrying the mutation.
#7. Super Flexibility (Elastic Man)
Marfan syndrome affects the body’s connective tissues. People who have it tend to be abnormally tall, have elongated limbs, and be highly flexible. However, it is a spectrum disease, meaning that people with mild cases can lead fairly normal lives, but severe cases can lead to heart defects and other organ failures that could be life-threatening.
#8. Need Little Sleep (Batman)
After conducting genetic tests on sleep-test participants, researchers discovered a mother and daughter who share an abnormal copy of a gene known as DEC2, which affects the circadian rhythm. The result is that they require far less sleep than the average person. Although the mutation has only been found in two people, the power of the research arises from the fact that the shortened sleep effect was replicated in experiments using mice and fruit flies. Consequently, the research has given scientists much needed guidance on where to look for genetic traits linked to sleep patterns.
#9. Super Strength (Superman)
#10. Super Vision
Color blindness is a condition caused by a gene mutation that disables one of these cones. It’s much more common in males, since the genes responsible for detecting the colors red and green are found only on the X chromosome. Because men only have one X copy, if mutations on the X chromosome occur they’re more likely to exhibit altered traits than women who have two X chromosomes.
But what if instead of disabling one of the cones, a mutation increased the range of colors it was able to detect? If the mutation occurred in a man it would likely only result in a slightly shifted color spectrum. But in a woman, if one of her X chromosomes had this mutation and the other one didn’t, it would hypothetically result in her possessing the ability to see an increased range of colors undetectable by most people.
According to a study published in the Journal of Vision, roughly 12% of women have this sort of “super vision,” although scientists have officially labeled the condition tetrachromacy.