Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Weird News Wednesday

Here's another little gem to file under 'What the hell were these researchers smoking and who on earth funds this crap?'

Dry earwax? It's genetic

By Dan Vergano, USA TODAY
Mon Jan 30, 7:23 AM ET

Genetics researchers have uncovered the key gene behind the mystery of human earwax. Finally. The report in Monday's Nature Genetics journal solves a long-running anthropologist's riddle - why many people in China and Korea, as well as elsewhere in Asia, have dry earwax while the rest of humanity enjoys the sticky variety.
(first of all, I have been accused of having some weird questions about things, but I have NEVER wondered about this. and besides....who went around comparing Asian earwax to other varieties in the first place??)

Geneticists had known the neighborhood of the earwax gene from previous work and decided to pin it down. The gene comes in two types, or alleles, corresponding to wet or dry earwax.
(Yes, I am sure it's much more productive to isolate this gene as opposed to the one that causes cancer perhaps.)

By examining 126 Japanese volunteers, the team determined that the dry-earwax gene is recessive, meaning both parents must pass a copy to their children for it to work. To chart a global earwax gene map, the team next looked at volunteers from 33 populations worldwide, from Native Americans to Ashkenazi Jews to Polynesian islanders. The dry-earwax allele probably arose "in northeast Asia and thereafter spread throughout the world," the team concludes.
(A map of the distribution of folks with dry earwax. Now isn't that a nifty little thing you'd like on your living room wall!)

"We're all curious what makes people different," she says. Mountain suggests the dry-earwax allele probably originated within the past 30,000 years, "or even much more recently." Intriguingly, the dry-earwax gene turns up fairly often in Native Americans, in about 30% of a sample of that population.
(Theories of the ancient origin or dry earwax were first considered when archeologists unearthed, along with arrowheads and potsherds, some fossilized matchsticks and q-tips that were covered with the stuff. Cave paintings in the southwest USA also seemed to depict a tribal chief excavating his own ear canal and bestowing it upon those of lesser status by smearing it on their buckskins. This is possibly indicative of a little known earwax cult among indigenous peoples.)

That suggests the emigrants from Asia who first populated North and South America brought the gene with them, the Japanese team says. Dry earwax may have given people in northeast Asia some advantage during past periods of cold climate, not freezing as readily, the researchers suspect, But "this is still pretty speculative," Mountain says.
(Well by all means, we MUST fund further research into this riveting question!)


Gary said...

I wonder whether they have fewer ear infections.

By the way, I'd love for you to link me. You have a great blog.

lime said...

gary, thanks for the compliment and linkage. as for ear infections...i doubt they have anythign to do with the most common which are middle ear (behind the ear drum). it might have an effect on the incidence of swimmer's ear....quick, federal funding needs to be allocated for it!

barefoot_mistress said...

Well, now that I know that there are 2 types of earwax, my life is richer and more fulfilling!

lime said...

i am here to serve and enlighten, bare

Jodes said...

gross, that is all i got.

snavy said...

Ok - earwax - check!

But what I want to know, and this really should be studied is SNOT!!

I mean I think it is important to know if these people have dry or wet snot. Does having dry earwax mean the snot will also be dry and does it have the same attributes. Did the find balled up snot filled tissues among the fossil remains?

Yes, more reasearch is called for!

bsoholic said...

Good grief... Always important research there. Q-Tip probably funded it. LOL

Fred said...

Tell me where to send the check. Puh-leeze!

lime said...

jodes, gross indeed

snav, that will be the next federally funded study....examining the relative viscosity of snot across races

bs....good point!

fred, just give me your credit cards numbers.......mwahahahaha

Logophile said...

wow, imagine THAT job, ear wax collection,

Anonymous said...

hey ear wax collectors make good money plus they get to keep all the toe jam they want..heh heh!

James Goodman said...

Another good way to burn through money for worthless information.

The Zombieslayer said...

What a lousy thing to research. Of all the things I want to research, with my luck, I'd be stuck on that team. Glad I don't do research for a living.