By: Savannah Smith | 07-04-2017 | News
Photo credit: Clearvista |

There’s Something to Be Thankful About Arthritis

Arthritis may be a pain and such an inconvenience to those who suffer from it but it might offer those struggling with it some comfort with the idea that they may not even be alive if it were not for the aching limbs.

Researchers based in the U.S. have found out that a gene mutation which increases the risk of arthritis evolved during the Ice Age to help our ancestors deal with frostbite.

Europeans are more prone to arthritis with about half of the population carrying a variant of the GDF5 gene which doubles the chance of developing painful joints, and also takes out around 1cm off height. 10 million Britons are suffering from arthritis.

It may appear like a disadvantage, or at the very least a source of irritation to be shorter and less mobile due to arthritis, but it has, in fact,helped our ancestors to fight freezing temperatures of the north as they journeyed out of Africa for the first time some 50,000 years ago. Being short and stocky, in fact, proved helpful for earlier humans to withstand the bitter cold and also reduced the risk of life-threatening bone fractures when slipping on ice surfaces.

The timing of the arrival of arthritis is also something of a relief, too. The fact that it usually hits people after reproductive age means it would not prevent one from starting a family, and so the mutation was passed on.

Dr. David Kingsley, a Professor of developmental biology at Stanford University said: “ Many people think of osteoarthritis as a kind of wear-and-tear disease, but there’s clearly a genetic component at work here as well.”

Researchers have looked at the genomes of people from across the world who had submitted their DNA for the 1,000 Genomes project and observed that the gene variant and its bone-limiting switch were widely more common in European populations. The gene variant, on the other hand, appears extremely rare in African populations.


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