Snowproof Genes

Cold weather — it’s SNOW joke!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

It’s freezing out, and you’re MISERABLE! Forget the down parka – what if your GENES could warm you ? 

Enter Victoria Wyckelsma from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and team. They study a gene called ACTN3. Some people have a mutated form of it. And those people are of northern European descent! Why?

The team took forty young volunteers from the same town for a swim. Some had the normal gene, others, the mutated version. They took twenty minute dips in cold water. Brrrr! They stopped when their body temperature fell under ninety-six degrees fahrenheit. 

And? SEVENTY percent of the volunteers with the mutation resisted the cold! How? 

The gene mutation helps their muscles FLEX instead of shiver. Flexing is a more energy-efficient way for humans to generate heat. Keeping us nice and toasty!

The researchers think that people who migrated north developed this mutation to adapt to cold weather!

So,. . . Santa must be a MUTANT!? Thought that “Ho ho ho” was. . . odd.

Wyckelsma, V. L, Venckunas, T., Houweling, P. J., Schlittler, M., Lauschke, V. M., Tiong, C. F., Wood, H. D., Ivarsson, N., Paulauskas, H., Eimantas, N., Andersson, D. C., North, K. N., Brazaitis, M., & Westerblad, H. (2021). Loss of  α-actinin-3 during human evolution provides superior cold resilience and muscle heat generation. The American Journal of Human Genetics, 108(3), 446-457.