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Does ‘Superhero DNA’ Exist?
April 13, 2016
Some people appear to be born with ‘superhero DNA’ that cancels out genetic diseases like cystic fibrosis, say researchers.
The study of nearly 600,000 people found 13 who should have developed debilitating diseases, but did not.
The hope is discovering what, against the odds, keeps them healthy and if that could lead to new therapies.
Experts said the approach, published in Nature Biotechnology, was “fascinating” but that it was still early days.
Errors in our code of life – our DNA – can cause disease.
Large numbers of studies have tried to understand these mutations by looking at people who become ill.
But the international team of researchers tried the opposite approach – searching for people harbouring damaging mutations but who remain healthy.
“Millions of years of evolution have produced far more protective mechanisms than we currently understand,” said Dr Eric Schadt from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
He added: “Most genomic studies focus on finding the cause of a disease, but we see tremendous opportunity in figuring out what keeps people healthy.”
The researchers scoured DNA databases containing information on 589,306 people.
They found 13 healthy people who should have developed one of eight genetic diseases: cystic fibrosis, Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome, familial dysautonomia, epidermolysis bullosa simplex, Pfeiffer syndrome, autoimmune polyendocrinopathy syndrome, acampomelic campomelic dysplasia and atelosteogenesis.
By James Gallagher