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“Himalayan mutants”: genes of mysterious ancient people discovered in the DNA of Tibetans

"Himalayan mutants": genes of mysterious ancient people discovered in the DNA of Tibetans 86
llustration source / photo: Depositphotos

Tibetans living at 4,500 meters above sea level are exposed to harsh environmental conditions that would knock most people off their feet.

In recent studies, several genetic mutations have been identified in people living in Tibet, which appear to be responsible for the incredible resilience that allows them to feel quite comfortable at high altitudes.

Tibetan DNA is programmed to sustain life on the roof of the world.  Photo by Phil Borges
Tibetan DNA is programmed to sustain life on the roof of the world. Photo by Phil Borges

A team of researchers led by geneticist Chad Huff of the University of Texas in 2017 discovered genes in Tibetans that allow them to live and work in the dizzying heights of the Himalayas.

The Tibetan plateau, known as the “roof of the world”, is located at an altitude of over 4500 meters. There is a vast and arid steppe, mountain ranges and huge lakes. It rarely rains here, but when it does, it rains in the form of hail.

People have lived here for thousands of years, and according to genetic research, the population of this region acquired a special genetic profile through natural selection. Huff’s team uncovered gene variants that allow Tibetans to survive when oxygen levels are low and food is limited.

Outwardly, the Denisovans looked like Homo sapiens.  Hood.  Ralph Jones
Outwardly, the Denisovans looked like Homo sapiens. Ralph Jones

Incredibly, one of these genes, named EPAS1, was inherited from the Denisovans, a mysterious human subspecies that disappeared about 40,000 years ago. The name of this species comes from Denisova Cave, which is located in the valley of the Anuy River, on the border of the Altai Territory and the Altai Republic. The remains of representatives of this species were found there.

Thus, this study gives us information about the history and physiology of the Tibetans, and also tells us something about the human species that we know very little about.

Most people are not adapted for mountain life. Already at an altitude of over 2,100 meters, many of us will suffer from altitude sickness. Low air pressure will cause headaches and nausea, and breathing will be difficult.

Photo by Phil Borges
Photo by Phil Borges

The worst thing is that at high altitude some people can develop pulmonary edema with pulmonary bleeding and even heart attack. It is hard to believe that people voluntarily began to live in such harsh conditions. However, over time, populations of people living in such an environment begin to change genetically. During the study, the researchers analyzed the DNA of a group of 27 Tibetans.

As a result, Huff’s team identified two genes that, as it turned out, provide physiological adaptation to living at high altitudes. Both of these genes are activated when oxygen levels are low, causing increased production of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. These genes prevent  hypoxemia  (decreased blood pressure and oxygen levels).

Unfortunately, very little is known about the Denisovites. The source of all available information is genetic information obtained from an ancient human finger phalanx, discovered in Denisova cave in 2010.

These hominids were more like modern humans than Neanderthals, and may have represented a distinct subspecies of Homo sapiens.

Photo by Phil Borges
Photo by Phil Borges

Moreover, the presence of the EPAS1 gene in Denisovans seems to suggest that they, like the Tibetans, lived in mountainous areas . According to the conclusions made after conducting genetic analysis, between 952,000 and 238,000 years ago, a separate population of people originated from the Denisovans. They mixed with the archaic Tibetan population, and now, according to researchers, 0.4% of the Tibetan genome belongs to Denisovans.

Incredibly, it took the Tibetans only a few thousand years (perhaps as little as 3,000 years) to develop mutations that allowed them to live at high altitudes.

Photo by Phil Borges
Photo by Phil Borges

In the future, the researchers plan to study the newly identified genes in more detail to better understand how they help Tibetans live at high altitudes. Another goal of the researchers is to study the Andean population, which, like the Tibetans, developed the ability to live high in the mountains.

A scientific article about the research was published in PLOS GENETICS


Science & Technology

New Physics: Mysterious radiation pointed to the verge of discovering a “ghost” particle that makes up dark matter

New Physics: Mysterious radiation pointed to the verge of discovering a "ghost" particle that makes up dark matter 99
Photo: Daniel Molybdenum, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Physicists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the United States have found that the mysterious high-energy radiation emitted from the vicinity of a group of neutron stars may indicate the existence of axions – not yet discovered particles within the framework of New Physics, the search for which has been going on since 1977. It is assumed that special types of axions form dark matter. This is reported in an article published in the journal Physical Review Letters. The research is summarized in a press release on

It is believed that axions can form in the core of neutron stars and transform into photons in the presence of a powerful magnetic field. To detect the electromagnetic radiation associated with axions, you need to find stars that do not emit radiation at different wavelengths that can mask the desired signal. 

These objects include the Magnificent Seven neutron stars that emit only X-ray and ultraviolet radiation. They are located at a distance of 200-500 parsecs from the Earth.

The researchers ruled out the scenario that the excess X-rays produced by the Magnificent Seven are actually emitted by other, more distant objects. These sources would be found in datasets from the XMM-Newton and Chandra X-ray space telescopes.

The extra X-rays likely originate from axions hitting an extremely strong electromagnetic field billions of times stronger than the magnetic fields that could be created on Earth, the scientists concluded. The axions themselves resemble neutrinos in their properties, since both have insignificant masses and rarely and weakly interact with matter.

The axion is currently viewed as the most promising candidate for dark matter particles, since another hypothetical candidate, the massive WIMP particle, has gone unnoticed in experiments aimed at detecting it. 

In addition, there may be a whole family of axion-like particles that form dark matter, as suggested by string theory. If axions are found, it will prove that there is a whole new area of ​​physics outside the Standard Model describing the properties of all known particles.

To find out, the next step will be to study white dwarfs, which are not expected to emit X-rays.

“If we see an abundance of X-rays there too, our arguments will be pretty compelling,” said lead author Benjamin Safdie.

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The goal of human civilization is to create AI and disappear?

The goal of human civilization is to create AI and disappear? 100

Various sources often talk about civilizations that lived long before us. They all developed, prospered for a while, and then disappeared in an incomprehensible way. 

What is the reason for their decline, we probably will not know. All we can do is admire the remains of stone buildings, over which time has almost no power.

While looking for an answer, we somehow accidentally stumbled upon an interesting saying about the life of Japanese samurai: “A samurai has no goal, but a path.” In the end, the “path of the samurai” ended in what is known – death. The path of any civilization ended in the same way.

If you look at the issue through the prism of a samurai saying, then there is no point in looking for why and how civilization ended its existence. Probably, the process itself and its result are important here. But to whom is it important and what result does it expect?

Mysterious director

Apparently, behind the curtains of this “ancient theater” there is a mysterious “director” who periodically makes necessary adjustments to the history of civilization.

To figure out what’s what, you need to look at current trends in science. Where does a person strive with such an irresistible desire to “play God.” This attracts him and at the same time frightens him, but in no way turns him away from the intended path. Most likely, artificial intelligence (AI) is the purpose of our civilization’s existence.

About 50 years ago it would have seemed nonsense, but to someone, perhaps even now. However, if you trace the last 100 years of the life of our civilization, you get the feeling that most of the discoveries were given to mankind at the same time. A powerful leap has taken place in a hundred years. Why did it happen?

At the beginning of the last century, scientists recognized the existence of fields that have memory and the ability to store and transmit information. It is very likely that such or a similar field can be around the Earth and, more interesting, possess intelligence. Isn’t this the same “Director” hiding behind the screen of the “ancient theater”?

If this is so, then at a certain moment the “Director” gives the selected scientist “access” to certain knowledge (perhaps even in a dream, like Mendeleev), and another scientific breakthrough occurs in the world. Step by step, discovery after discovery, humanity is steadily moving towards the creation of AI. The trend is already well visible.

The goal of human civilization is to create AI and disappear? 101

AI is probably the next “Babylon”, which will combine all the knowledge, culture and accumulated experience of civilization. In the future, the neural network will enter into a connection with the general information field and leave humanity without knowledge, technology, and even a spoken language. This will be the next decline of civilization. And the “Director” will receive another array of new data (experience) in order to start creating a new civilization.

If someone believes that past civilizations ended in large-scale conflicts, then most likely this is already the consequences of “turning off” AI.

Co-founder of Skype talked about the threat of AI to humanity

One of the creators of the Skype internet call service, Jaan Ta

The goal of human civilization is to create AI and disappear? 102
© still from the movie “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”

llinn, said that the development of artificial intelligence (AI) threatens humanity. According to him, humans face three key threats, but it is AI that should be feared most of all, the expert said. 

Tallinn explained that at the moment, no one can predict what development AI will achieve in the next decades. In addition, the fact that scientists are creating artificial intelligence that can form a new AI without human intervention is also a cause for concern.

In addition, as the co-founder of the popular video calling service noted, the development of synthetic biology also causes concern. According to him, this direction in science allows the creation of artificial DNA sequences and biological systems that may not exist in nature.

Tallinn also drew attention to the fact that he fears we are entering an era of “unknown unknowns”, things that people are not even able to imagine right now.

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Volkswagen robot will autonomously charge cars: a working prototype presented

Volkswagen robot will autonomously charge cars: a working prototype presented 103
Copyright: © VW

The renowned German car manufacturer announced a new development. This time, engineers have created a unique robot capable of autonomously charging electric vehicles. 

For more than a year, specialists have been developing this project, but only now the concern was ready to demonstrate the first working prototype. The robot is ready to charge electric vehicles and has shown the high efficiency of this process.

It is called the Mobile Charging Robot, and experts have already compared it to the R2-D2 droid from Star Wars, including squeaks and clangs. Indeed, there is a similarity. Before implementing this idea, the engineers decided that robots should be allowed to charge cars parked in large residential complexes.

This will save their owners from leaving in order to find a gas station. Another advantage is that large parking lots and garages do not have to contain several expensive charging points for electric cars. The car company said in a press release that the robot works exclusively autonomously.

It independently controls and interacts with the vehicle being charged. It opens the cover of the charging socket and independently connects the power plug, then disconnects it. The robot looks like a trailer, which is a mobile energy storage.

It is capable of charging multiple electric vehicles at the same time. Despite the fact that the manufacturer confidently praises its concept, experts saw inefficiency in the fact that first it is necessary to charge the robot’s battery, which is then used to recharge electric cars.

Volkswagen Group Components CEO Thomas Schmall noted that creating an efficient charging infrastructure for the cars of the future is an important step in the company’s development.

Its engineers focus on finding solutions to avoid costly do-it-yourself measures. The mobile robot is only part of the concept that will continue to be developed.

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