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Unique human capabilities are all in our genes

Narrator:    This is Science Today. What is it about our genes that enable us to develop unique human capabilities? The answers are in the DNA. At the University of California, San Francisco, Dr. Katie Pollard and her colleagues are using powerful computer software to compare the genomes of humans and chimps.

    When we line up a section of human DNA and chimp DNA, what we like to do is also look at other animals and right now, there are 50 different animals that have whole genome sequences, so we can look at human and we can look at chimp and we can move along the sequence and find a difference.

Narrator:    Pollard says since the evolutionary paths of the first hominids and chimps diverged about six million years ago, one interesting finding has been that changes in the human DNA sequence were not in proteins.

Pollard:    That's a little bit surprising given how important proteins are for making all of our cells work. 550 Instead, they seem to be changing the messages about when to turn the building blocks, i.e. proteins on and off. 700 We're focused on the parts of our genome that are these regulatory switches and trying to understand which of our switches are different from the chimp switches.

   For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.