A practical and simple case of explaining genetics is to compare the lobes of the ear with that of our parents. However, a new study from the University of Pittsburgh has revealed that this explanation may be more complicated than we thought. This is because it has been discovered that at least 49 different genes interact in the creation of the lobe .
According to the main author of the research, John R. Shaffer , “sometimes, the genetics of a fairly simple trait is, in fact, quite complex.” Understanding that complexity, we can work for treatments of genetic conditions, many of which have different facial features that affect the earlobe, including Mowat-Wilson syndrome, which can cause hollow ears with protruding lobes. ”
The international collaboration of China and the United Kingdom has been key to the results of the study, since the size of the sample was much larger and the ethnic diversity of the participants provided a greater depth of genetic information.
The form of work has consisted in the combination of two different research methods . One on a large scale , getting results from an extensive network, but without detail. And another more reduced and with more depth of nuances.
First, the team investigated a sample of slightly less than 10,000 participants who, in addition to providing genetic data, underwent recognition to determine if their lobes were attached, separated or partially bound. The subjects also provided some medical history and were examined for a family history of congenital malformations.
Subsequently, the team partnered with a US personal genetic company to include a figure of 65,000 clients who agreed to participate in the investigation. This fact drastically increased the statistical power of the study. In the latter case, the volunteers provided self-reports on their ear lobe status limiting the response to a united or separate.
With the results of the first sample , that of the small group, the researchers were able to identify six genes that largely determined the union of the ear lobe.
After expanding the analysis with the American company, it was shown that those same six genes were again strongly involved in the fixation of the ear lobe. However, to these were added 43 other genes . Therefore, in total we speak of almost fifty genes that influence the binding process .
The ins and outs of genetics
“We have these 49 genes that we know affect the attachment of the ear lobe, but we do not know how they work together or interact with each other,” according to Feingold , one of the study’s collaborators. “Understanding that is the next step,” he said.
In this sense, it is not so easy to explain the intricacies of genetics using the earlobe as a practical case. It has been shown that even an apparently simple inherited trait entails a complex and fascinating interaction of genes that scientists are just beginning to understand.