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Chinese Scientists Find Gene that Determines Skin Complexion, Cold Weather Endurance

Jul 10, 2018     Email"> PrintText Size

Chinese scientists have discovered a special gene that controls skin color and resist cold temperatures, a breakthrough that is expected to support research on skin diseases.

The mutation of the pigmentation gene KITLG was proven to have made the skin color of today's European and Asian people lighter when they moved from Africa 75,000 years ago, scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) found.

The gene has also allowed people living at high altitudes to better resist cold temperatures, according to CAS.

 "It is the first type of gene that was found to control the change in two human traits," Chen Hua, a member of the research team at the CAS, told the Global Times on Monday.

Modern people are believed to have originated in today's Africa around 200,000 years ago. Some modern people later moved to higher latitudes with less ultraviolet (UV) rays.

"These environmental changes pushed human genes to make new choices, which made people develop different physiological traits and appearances," said Su Bing, the head of the research program.

One example is that people living at higher altitudes have lighter skin than those in tropical areas, CAS said.

The findings, according to Su, could provide some basic knowledge to better understand skin related diseases.

It is intriguing that as modern people have learned to use items such as sunscreen to protect against UV rays and clothes and caps to keep warm, "the KITLG has less pressure to make changes to adapt to the environment," and the changes in the gene "have become more random than changes to the natural environment," Su said.

The findings were also published on June 29 by Molecular Biology and Evolution, a scientific journal in the UK. (Global Times)

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(Editor: CHEN Na)

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