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Dartmouth researcher finds novel genetic patterns that make us rethink biology and individuality
Date:11/7/2013

to exhibit the same mutations. Williams and colleagues analyzed the same 10 tissue samples in two unrelated people. They found several identical mutations, and detected these repeated mutations only in kidney, liver and skeletal body tissues. Their research examined "mitochondrial DNA" (mtDNA)a part of DNA that is only inherited from the mother.4 Technically all women would share mtDNA from one common female ancestor, but mutations have resulted in differences. The importance of Williams' finding is that these tissue-specific, recurrent, common mutations in mtDNA among unrelated study subjectsonly detected in three body tissuesare "not likely being developed and maintained through purely random processes," according to Williams. They indicate "a completely different model . a decidedly non-random process that results in particular mutations, but only in specific tissues."

If our human DNA changes, or mutates, in patterns, rather than randomly; if such mutations "match" among unrelated people; or if genetic changes happen only in part of the body of one individual, what does this mean for our understanding of what it means to be human? How may it impact our medical care, cancer screening, or treatment of disease? We don't yet know, but ongoing research may help reveal the answers.

Christopher Amos, PhD, Director of the Center for Genomic Medicine and Associate Director for Population Sciences at the Cancer Center, says, "This paper identifies mutations that develop in multiple tissues, and provides novel insights that are relevant to aging. Mutations are noticed in several tissues in common across individuals, and the aging process is the most likely contributor. The theory would be that selected mutations confer a selective advantage to mitochondria, and these accumulate as we age." Amos, who is also a Professor of Community and Family Medicine at Geisel, says, "To confirm whether aging is to blame, we would need to study tissues from
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Contact: Derik Hertel
derik.hertel@dartmouth.edu
603-650-1203
The Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth
Source:Eurekalert

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