Lucky 13: A Look at a Group of “Genetic Superheroes”

by bluevase

It’s pretty hard to overcome your genes, especially with regards to genetic disorders. A recent study, however, has unearthed a small number of people who have seemed impervious to their genetic fate.

Few and Far Between

An international effort with over two dozen contributors, this research appeared in the journal Nature Biotechnology. Using data from twelve different sources, the authors were able to examine the genomes of more than 589,000 people, directing their focus towards 874 genes in particular.

Having amassed mounds of information, the researchers then sought to identify some very rare needles in their haystack – people who possessed certain genetic abnormalities, yet exhibited none of the health problems automatically triggered by such mutations.

In all, only thirteen people proved to be immune to their genetic luck. Each member of this elite group was found to be living with faulty genes, a fact that should have caused of one of eight chronic disorders to develop. Instead, signs of these eight diseases were completely absent.

Cancelled Out?

As things currently stand, the researchers are still unsure as to what gives their “genetic superheroes” their distinctive trait. One theory is that these genetic defects have been effectively neutralized by other genes. An alternative explanation is that environmental factors deserve credit for the group’s good fortune.

By studying the few people able to overcome their flawed DNA, the authors hope to lay the groundwork for a better understanding of genetic disorders. Ideally, this will eventually give doctors more options for treating hereditary diseases. For a follow-up project, the research team plans to recruit volunteers to undergo genetic analysis. The team will then monitor and document the health of their recruits over an extended period of time.

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