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Human Gene Mutation Creates Resistance to Kuru -A Rare, Violent Epidemic

Papua-new-guinea-08-sp08-fb "It's absolutely fascinating to see Darwinian principles at work here. This community of people has developed their own biologically unique response to a truly terrible epidemic. The fact that this genetic evolution has happened in a matter of decades is remarkable."

Professor John Collinge, Director of the Medical Research Council (MRC) Prion Unit 

A community in Papua New Guinea that suffered a major epidemic of a fatal brain disease called kuru has developed strong genetic resistance to the disease, according to new research by Medical Research Council scientists.

Kuru is a fatal prion disease geographically unique to an area in Papua New Guinea. In the mid 20th Century, an epidemic of kuru devastated a population in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea. The infection was passed on at funeral feasts, where mainly women and children consumed their deceased relatives as a mark of respect and mourning -a practice banned and ceased in the late 1950s.

Prion diseases or transmissible spongiform encephalopathies belong to group of fatal progressive conditions that affect the nervous system in humans and animals. In humans, prion diseases impair brain function, causing memory changes, personality changes, a decline in intellectual function (dementia), and problems with movement that worsen over time. 

Scientists from the MRC Prion Unit, a national centre of excellence in prion diseases, assessed over 3000 people from the affected and surrounding Eastern Highland populations, including 709 who had participated in cannibalistic burial feasts, 152 of whom subsequently died of kuru. They discovered a novel and unique variation in the prion protein gene called G127V in people from the Purosa valley region where kuru was most rife.

This gene mutation, which is found nowhere else in the world, seems to offer high or even complete protection against the development of kuru and has become frequent in this area through natural selection over recent history, in direct response to the epidemic. This is thought be one the strongest examples ever of recent natural selection in humans.

The study, which began in 1996, is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Jason McManus

Source:  Medical Research Council (UK)


Good cheer comes from the post.

Human biological evolution is the minor league when it comes to avoiding extinction of the human species in this cosmos.

Even if we eradicated each and every disease of the body but failed to do so for the mental diseases, we would become extinct.

It is a shame how rare memetic evolution articles are compared to biological evolution articles.

Time to begin to peer out the wind shield while avoiding the rear view mirror syndrome.

This article is a living proof to the upside-down world we live in. The professor is just a charlatan. There is no Darwinism at work here. The nature or some higher intelligence (some people call him God) downgraded their DNA to animal level, since they behave like animals and eat its own species. Ever since they stopped animal activity the same intelligence welcomed them into the human race, aka Homo Sapiens. Sorry professor. Looks like our economists are from the same “respected university”, that’s why we are in such deep sh$t.

The comment above proves that Kuru may not be that geographically unique after all.

There is a sniff of hope for humanity here if you look hard enough (can you look hard at a sniff?). If these are the only group to have developed resistance to human derived prion contamination that would seem to suggest that there have been very few instances of cannibalism throughout human evolution or we'd already have built up resistance in prehistory.

Before placing comments one should have known that a leap in evolution may only happen with a DNA getting higher information bit count. In the described case the DNA bit count does not change but gets either less numerical value or the same, but rearranged, aka mutation. This is actually what was going on with those people. They were simple mutants. Once they stopped eating each other, they just went to a normal state. This is very simple unless one is from the same team as the “distinguished professor”.

According to Wikipedia, cannibalist funeral feasting existed mainly among the South Fore (who number about 8,000) so selection for resistance to kuru must have been strong in a small population. You only need a few people to have the necessary mutation and it will spread through the population in a few generations. This is called the founder effect.

There is also the possibility that kuru was spread via the handling of organs infected with the prions which might enter open wounds in the handlers' skin. The majority of people who suffered from kuru were women and children.

What helped to get rid of kuru was the Fore people's contact with white people in the 1950s. The Fore reduced their fighting, they adopted coffee-growing and their villages began to co-operate more. They gave up sorcery and with it cannibalism.

This gene mutation developed "in direct response to the epidemic" according to researchers. It hasn't been the first and won't be the last time when we will see rapid evolution of resistance to some disease or disorder. Classic mind-over-body power here. They did not want to be sick or become sick. They believed so strongly in this, that they developed stronger eggs and sperm. Subsequent generations inherited this resistance. Anything is possible. You can make yourself sick ... you can make yourself well. If you think/believe that mind-over-body doesn't happen, you are naive. You will see more research regarding this as time goes on.

Papua New Guinea is a fun place. They like to visit neighboring villages and eat the adults. Sometimes they adopt the kids. One chap was explaining that his adopted son's parents were very tasty, while the smiling kid listened.

The comments on this article are a sad example of how ignorant the vast majority of people are in the sciences. All of you would benefit from reading more and commenting less. I won't be the one to waste my time trying to explain evolution to you.

donate to my scientific research.

paypal info : speedsixxx@yahoo.com

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