The Loh Down On Science

Why, Y Chromosome?

Sorry, men. Here’s possible blue news about your genes.

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

Two-hundred-million years ago, men’s ancestral Y chromosome contained upwards of six hundred genes.

Today? The human Y chromosome has just several dozen. That's right, several dozen. So say scientists at MIT’s Whitehead Institute.

This has led some scientists to speculate that if we continue at this rate, we'll eventually lose the entire Y chromosome!

But, there's a light at the end of this DNA tunnel. Despite the massive shrinkage--you know, genome wise--it appears as though the rest of the chromosome isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

A comparison of human and rhesus macaque monkey Y chromosomes shows something interesting: Men’s Y has lost only one gene since human and monkey lines split twenty-five- million years ago. The researchers say the number is likely stable due to those genes' critical biological functions.

So fear not men, it’s not quantity, it’s quality.

We could crack some further jokes about that, but you know what, people? Less is more.

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


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