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SCIENCE IN THE NEWS DAILY

Humans Riddled with Rare Genetic Variants

from Nature News

By sequencing more people more thoroughly than ever before, researchers have affirmed that rare genetic variants--those carried by fewer than five people in a thousand--are widespread and likely to have an important role in human health.

Two studies published today in Science find that most human genetic variants are rare, and that rare variants are more likely than common ones to affect the structure or function of proteins, and therefore to have biological or medical consequences. The papers, along with another study published last week in Science, all conclude that humans carry such a high load of rare variants because the species experienced a population growth spurt that began a few millenia after the adoption of agriculture, which occurred about 10,000 years ago.

The three studies add to a growing body of knowledge that has profound implications for researchers investigating the genetic roots of disease.

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Using the Atacama Cosmology Telescope (ATC), a 6.5-meter microwave collector in Chile, cosmologists are piecing together the early history of the known universe. In an exclusive American Scientist interview, Arthur Kosowsky—a member of the ATC team and a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Pittsburgh—discusses how he is using ATC to reach back in time billions of years to search for gravitational waves that could verify inflation and reveal unprecedented details about how the cosmos was born.

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