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An international collaboration of scientists from the Yale School of Medicine and Turkey may have discovered humanity's beneficiary – a tiny variation within a single gene that determines the formation of brain convolutions – they report online May 15 in the journal Nature Genetics.
A genetic analysis of a Turkish patient whose brain lacks the characteristic convolutions in part of his cerebral cortex revealed that the deformity was caused by the deletion of two genetic letters from 3 billion in the human genetic alphabet. Similar variations of the same gene, called laminin gamma3 (LAMC3), were discovered in two other patients with similar abnormalities.
An analysis of the gene shows that it is expressed during the embryonic period that is vital to the formation of dendrites, which form synapses or connections between brain cells. "Although the same gene is present in lower organisms with smooth brains such as mice, somehow over time, it has evolved to gain novel functions that are fundamental for human occipital cortex formation and its mutation leads to the loss of surface convolutions, a hallmark of the human brain," Gunel said.