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How Ethiopian highlanders adapted to breathe thin air

Ethiopian highlands

Over millenia, humans have adapted to the high altitude of Ethiopia's highlands. Researchers have now pinpointed one adaptation — lower levels of cardiac signaling protein — that may make the high life possible.

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At high altitudes, the reduced oxygen in the air makes some people develop a condition called hypoxia. But the thousands of people who live 3,500 meters above sea level in the Ethiopian highlands don’t seem to get sick. A key genetic adaptation may have helped them live for millenia at high altitudes, researchers report August 3 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Previously, a search for irregularities in highlanders’ genomes flagged mutations around a gene that builds a signaling protein called endothelin receptor type B, or ERTB. In the new study, mice with lower levels of ERTB still manage to get oxygen to vital organs with help from a trio of other genes that regulate blood pumping and circulation.

The findings could help provide better treatments for hypoxia — whether it’s down at sea level or high up in the hills of Ethiopia. 


Kidney transplants may benefit from a slightly chilled donor

By Sarah Schwartz 11:35am, July 31, 2015
Transplanted kidneys performed better when taken from organ donors whose bodies were intentionally cooled after death.
Immune Science

Experimental MERS vaccine battles virus in mice and monkeys

By Sarah Schwartz 6:30am, July 30, 2015
Select viral proteins and DNA can combat the MERS virus in mice and monkeys.
Animals,, Physiology

Stink bug moms are color conscious when it comes to their eggs

By Sarah Schwartz 5:36pm, July 24, 2015
P. maculiventris moms control the color of their eggs, seemingly pairing darker eggs with darker surfaces.

Stretchy fiber keeps electrons flowing

By Andrew Grant 5:04pm, July 23, 2015
Folded layers of carbon nanotubes allow an elastic fiber to conduct electrical current when stretched.

Boas kill by cutting off blood flow, not airflow

By Ashley Yeager 6:00pm, July 22, 2015
Boas actually kill by constricting blood flow of their prey, not suffocating them, as scientists previously suspected.
Oceans,, Climate

Blooming phytoplankton seed clouds in the Southern Ocean

By Beth Mole 2:00pm, July 17, 2015
Booming phytoplankton populations spark cloud formation in the Southern Ocean.
Health,, Microbes,, Microbiology

Mosquitoes can get a double dose of malaria

By Tina Hesman Saey 11:44am, July 17, 2015
Carrying malaria may make mosquitoes more susceptible to infection with a second strain of the parasite that causes the disease.
Neuroscience,, Human Development

Bundles of cells hint at biological differences of autistic brains

By Sarah Schwartz 9:20am, July 17, 2015
Using miniature organoids that mimic the human brain, scientists have identified developmental differences between autistic children and their non-autistic family members.

How screams shatter the brain

By Laura Sanders 12:00pm, July 16, 2015
The acoustical properties of screams make them hard to ignore, a new study suggests.

Exploding star breaks record for brightest supernova

By Christopher Crockett 9:53am, July 9, 2015
A recent supernova shines with the light of 600 billion suns.
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