All genes aren't indispensable

Even with about 20 that are utterly inactivated, individuals can do just fine

7:39pm, February 16, 2012

People don’t need a full set of working genes to lead healthy lives, a new study shows. People can dispense with at least one active copy of 100 genes and get by without about 20 genes entirely.

Many genetic diseases result from mutations or genetic variants that inactivate genes. Such variants are called loss-of-function variants and were thought to be rare. But as scientists began compiling complete genetic profiles of thousands of people, it became clear that many genes might be dispensable.

This plethora of inactivated genes may make it difficult for scientists to track down disease-causing mutations in people with genetic disorders. But the new study provides some guidelines for telling likely disease-causing variants from benign ones. 

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