Mice get the human language gene

MichaelMcF
Science Freak
MichaelMcF's picture
Posts: 525
Joined: 2008-01-22
User is offlineOffline
Mice get the human language gene

From a New Scientist article:

 

Quote:

DUBBED "the language gene", Foxp2 has been seen as key to the evolution of speech and language since its discovery in 2001. Now transgenic mice have been produced that make the human version of the gene, with dramatic results: their calls sound different from those of normal mice, and certain learning pathways in the brain appear to be enhanced...

...When his team compared hundreds of traits in the transgenic and normal mice, they found key differences in the rodents' brains and behaviour (Cell, DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2009.03.041). For example, the mice with human Foxp2 produce neurons that are more readily and lastingly calmed by repeated electrical stimulation. This process, known as long-term depression, is involved in learning physical movements...

...Intriguingly, Enard found that mice with human Foxp2 issue deeper ultrasonic calls than normal mice. The significance of this is not clear, but he discounts the idea that it could be a step towards human speech. "Mouse vocalisations are at best similar to baby cries," he says. "We will never be able to fully recreate human evolution in a mouse."

Forget Jesus, the stars died so that you could be here
- Lawrence Krauss


Hambydammit
High Level DonorModeratorRRS Core Member
Hambydammit's picture
Posts: 8657
Joined: 2006-10-22
User is offlineOffline
 Cool.In case it's missed

 Cool.

In case it's missed on any readers, one of the coolest things about genes is that there is no such thing as "mice genes" or "human genes."  There are just genes, and they exist in whatever creature they exist in.  If it's really Foxp2, it's exactly the same as Foxp2 in humans.  This is cool because we can learn a great deal about what it does in humans by seeing what it does in non-humans.  

As most readers probably know, genes don't really "do" one thing.  That is, Foxp2 isn't the magical "speech gene," which is what the researchers were saying.  You can't just plug it into any critter and get a talking critter.  However, it was certainly a big part of our evolution towards language, and certainly plays a part in our current language-capable genotype.  Since we evolved from a rodent-like mammal, we can probably learn a great deal from this experiment.

Very, very cool stuff.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism


Answers in Gene...
High Level Donor
Answers in Gene Simmons's picture
Posts: 4214
Joined: 2008-11-11
User is offlineOffline
Yah, I did some

Yah, I did some googling to see what else I could dig up on this gene and it turns out that the term “speech gene” is just a label accorded by the popular science press, born from the fact that it was first identified in a family that was known to have a single gene mutation that produces speech impediments.

 

Further, fox genes in general code for a transcription factor protein that is present in life forms as diverse as even yeast. So the key to the article is that the mice have the human version of the gene. There is of course a mouse version and a general primate version as well.

 

I am seeing conflicting information about just when the mutation to the human for may have occurred. One team of researchers found that the same sequence existed in Neanderthals yet another group places the mutation within the past 100,000 years. They are unlikely to both be correct, unless there is a possibility of the mutation having happened twice.

 

However it happened, apparently the whole region of chromosome 7 was swept of variation right after, so the mutation was fairly significant to our development.

NoMoreCrazyPeople wrote:
Never ever did I say enything about free, I said "free."

=


Hambydammit
High Level DonorModeratorRRS Core Member
Hambydammit's picture
Posts: 8657
Joined: 2006-10-22
User is offlineOffline
 Right.I don't know enough

 Right.

I don't know enough about it to speculate on whether it could be convergent evolution, but I suppose it's possible.  I would guess that's one of the things that we might learn from mouse experiments.  Perhaps there is something in our evolutionary past that makes speech a likely adaptation.

I'll be interested to see what we discover about non-human language.  It's clear that from chickens to whales, there are a lot of animals that have relatively complex communication, but how many animals have aspects of communication that could be called pre-lingual?

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
Books about atheism


Answers in Gene...
High Level Donor
Answers in Gene Simmons's picture
Posts: 4214
Joined: 2008-11-11
User is offlineOffline
Well granted, I never

Well granted, I never heard about this before this morning. What I know comes fully from google at this point but a search for foxp2 brings up lots of interesting stuff even in the generic version w/o going to the scholar version. Probably that is not surprising as that is a fairly specific search to run.

 

From what I see, the difference across mammals is very slight. The protein from the human/Neanderthal version is only two amino acids different from the ape version and the ape version is only one additional change from the mouse version.

 

Apparently, the changes in the protein in the human version are pretty specific to how our brains are built but do not affect the rest of the body much, if at all. So this research is going to tell us a fair bit about who we are as a species.

 

Apparently, the change in the family with the speech impediments is to a different amino acid than what divides mammals up as groups. That is a single amino acid elsewhere in the protein that is the same in all species as far back as yeast. Even so, that one change does not seem to affect general intelligence much (although the sample size is too small to say for sure).

 

What might interest my lay person's mind at this point would be to try using genes from different species to see what happens. For example, how would the ape version change things? Or the dolphin version. Dolphins are much farther removed but they have complex vocalizations as well.

NoMoreCrazyPeople wrote:
Never ever did I say enything about free, I said "free."

=


treat2 (not verified)
Posts: 4294964979
Joined: 1969-12-31
User is offlineOffline
Answers in Gene Simmons

Answers in Gene Simmons wrote:



Well granted, I never heard about this before this morning. What I know comes fully from google at this point but a search for foxp2 brings up lots of interesting stuff even in the generic version w/o going to the scholar version. Probably that is not surprising as that is a fairly specific search to run.

 

From what I see, the difference across mammals is very slight. The protein from the human/Neanderthal version is only two amino acids different from the ape version and the ape version is only one additional change from the mouse version.

 

Apparently, the changes in the protein in the human version are pretty specific to how our brains are built but do not affect the rest of the body much, if at all. So this research is going to tell us a fair bit about who we are as a species.

 

Apparently, the change in the family with the speech impediments is to a different amino acid than what divides mammals up as groups. That is a single amino acid elsewhere in the protein that is the same in all species as far back as yeast. Even so, that one change does not seem to affect general intelligence much (although the sample size is too small to say for sure).

 

What might interest my lay person's mind at this point would be to try using genes from different species to see what happens. For example, how would the ape version change things? Or the dolphin version. Dolphins are much farther removed but they have complex vocalizations as well.

There was a response in the thread which touched on the question of cross-species gene replacement and stated what has generally been found.

In one of the PBS Nova series
a study was done with genetically breed frogs w/o the genes to grow eyes.

Just for kicks, the genes to grow the eyes in some species
of pigs were inserted in the genes of these frogs. Rather than growing pigs eyes, the eyeless frogs grow normal frog eyes (using a genetic sequence which came from pigs).

What I would of interest is whether parrots that can mimic human speach have the human genetic sequence for speach. Although I doubt it, it would be interesting for someone to research.


Cpt_pineapple
atheist
Cpt_pineapple's picture
Posts: 5486
Joined: 2007-04-12
User is offlineOffline
Don't gene experiments like

Don't gene experiments like that have ethics commities, and if so how did this get past it? I don't really see a medical benefit.

 

 

 


treat2 (not verified)
Posts: 4294964979
Joined: 1969-12-31
User is offlineOffline
I know there is a national

I know there is a national board that established guidelines for psychological experiments involving humans.

I would assume that a national board setup guidelines for medical experiments as well.

However, I suspect that the source of the funds for medical experiments acts as the regulatory body, and also sets thier own guidelines as well.

And of course we know of government laws/regulations, such as on stem cell research. However, those regulations apply to government funded stem cell research.

I suspect that there's a ton of medical research that's been done which has not been made public, because of religious groups, and ethics committees. For example attempts to resurrect Neandertals, clone humans, and much more that we can not even imagine as having been done.

I'm sure google would provide
info on your question.


The Doomed Soul
atheist
The Doomed Soul's picture
Posts: 2148
Joined: 2007-08-31
User is offlineOffline
Cpt_pineapple wrote:Don't

Cpt_pineapple wrote:

Don't gene experiments like that have ethics commities, and if so how did this get past it? I don't really see a medical benefit.

... Since when do we EVER stop to question the ethics of experimenting on RATS?

God made them as a Scientists petre dish!

What Would Kharn Do?


Stosis
Posts: 327
Joined: 2008-10-21
User is offlineOffline
Cpt_pineapple wrote:Don't

Cpt_pineapple wrote:

Don't gene experiments like that have ethics commities, and if so how did this get past it? I don't really see a medical benefit.

 

 

 

 

Ummm, well if you want your scient journals to say "this product has not been tested on animals" then, errr... maybe PETA can help you?

 

Sorry to get off as such a troll but really if this was interrupted by an ethics committee then I've lost my faith in science.

 

Also I wonder if this could have a commercial value? My sister got two rats about a year ago and after watching them I can see that they really are very smart. They know their names and they know a few other things like: when someone picks up their treat bag they get really excited; when someone picks up their food bag they get excited but, not nearly as much with the treats... anyway there are many other things they know, like multiple faces (even ones they don't see everyday) anyway what I'm getting at is if you could put this gene in rats maybe it coud make them better at doing awesome tricks. You could keep one on your sholder and train it to attack your enemies and shit. Also it could learn a lot more commands and be a really cool pet.

 

Really? is this possible? If it was a matter of putting the gene in a few rats and then have them breed and the offspring will have the gene we could all own rats of Nimh, and that'd be awesome ;D


treat2 (not verified)
Posts: 4294964979
Joined: 1969-12-31
User is offlineOffline
YEAH! Since

YEAH!

Since when!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

YEAH!