Human Beings More Genetically Different From One Another Than Once Thought

"We'd find missing pieces of DNA, some a million or so nucleotides long," according to a media release by lead researcher Stephen Scherer of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, Md. "We used to think that if you had big changes like this, then they must be involved in disease. But we are showing that we can all have these changes."

Findings Have Implications Beyond Disease

The findings could also uncover some of the genes that determine why we are different from one another.

"It should be pointed out that CNVs can be expected to not only be important to disease but can also be expected to be potentially important to any genetically influenced difference between humans," Sikela said.

Even though the study highlights the differences that may exist between one person and the next, experts still say our genetic codes are overwhelmingly similar to one another.

"While there may be more common deletions than previously thought, human beings are still much more similar to each other than two oak trees or two dogs," Burmeister said.

"I think that it is an important way of thinking about the origins, not only of what we call disease, but also what we recognize as human variation," Korenberg said.

"We scientists find a new way in which the genome commits errors, and then we ask how these errors may account for where we came from, where we're going, and why we look and act like our families, including sharing a certain risk of their diseases," Korenberg said.

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