Genetic Variant Tells the Story of Skin Color Evolution

Techonology Networks | January 21, 2019

A research team at the University College London (UCL) Genetics Institute has conducted a genome-wide association study (GWAS) that provides novel insight into the evolution of variation in human skin color. The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, analyzed pigmentation in a population of more than 6,000 Latin American volunteers, who have a mix of Native American, European and African ancestry. “Features such as skin color are among the most prominently observed traits in humans and show a huge diversity, so we were interested in studying their genetic basis to see how they evolved,” explains Kaustubh Adhikari, the joint first author (UCL Genetics Institute). “There are many studies of pigmentation in Western Europeans and White Americans, but very few in other ethnicities such as Latin American.”
For each volunteer, the level of melanin in the skin was quantified using a reflectance spectrophotometer, and a high-quality photograph was taken to measure the color of the eyes. The scientists discovered a variation in the gene MFSD12 that is linked to lighter skin color. “Notably, the genetic variant that we discovered is almost exclusively present in East Asians and Native Americans but absent everywhere else,” adds Javier Mendoza-Revilla, the joint first author (UCL Genetics Institute).

Spotlight

If we could develop innovative technology such as a personal sensor to track the amount of carbon monoxide in a smoker's lungs, then this and other types of interventions could help change the behaviors around smoking and potentially save 500,000 lives annually in the U.S. alone.

Spotlight

If we could develop innovative technology such as a personal sensor to track the amount of carbon monoxide in a smoker's lungs, then this and other types of interventions could help change the behaviors around smoking and potentially save 500,000 lives annually in the U.S. alone.

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