Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Finally - Science Does Something Meaningful

If you're like me, you spend a lot of time wondering when the scientists are going to take their hands out of their lab coats, fire up the Bunsen burners and graphing calculators, and do something for a freaking change. Well, wonder no more.:

Earwax may not play a prominent part in human history but at least a small role for it has now been found by a team of Japanese researchers. Earwax comes in two types, wet and dry. The wet form predominates in Africa and Europe, where 97 percent or more of people have it, and the dry form among East Asians. The populations of South and Central Asia are roughly half and half. By comparing the DNA of Japanese with each type, the researchers were able to identify the gene that controls which type a person has, they report in today's issue of Nature Genetics.

It turns out, actually, that the earwax genes correlate with (cause?!?!) other data about human origins:
Since the wet form is so common in Africa and in Europe, this was likely to have been the ancestral form before modern humans left Africa 50,000 years ago. The dry form, the researchers say, presumably arose later in northern Asia, because they detected it almost universally in their tests of northern Han Chinese and Koreans. The dry form becomes less common in southern Asia, probably because the northerners with the dry earwax gene intermarried with southern Asians carrying the default wet earwax gene. The dry form is quite common in Native Americans, confirming other genetic evidence that their ancestors migrated across the Bering Strait from Siberia 15,000 years ago.
I'm sure the makers of Q-Tips are building these findings into their FY 2007 marketing plan.