Artificial Intelligence (AI) helps geneticists uncover the roots of upright walking in humans: new study maps the parts of the genome that create a bipedal skeleton
21 JUL 2023
The differences between us and our great ape cousins are obvious all the way down to our bones, especially because unlike them, we need skeletons that support us on two legs. But what genetic changes got us here? A new study, published this week in Science, maps the genetic regions that might let us walk. Researchers used artificial intelligence to sift through photographs of 500,000 people in the health and genetic data repository UK Biobank and then used these photos to estimate the skeletal proportions of 31,000 of the photographed people. Matching these measurements against the biobank’s genetic data revealed 145 places in the human genome that may control the skeletal proportions key to walking, such as our long legs, narrow hips, and short arms. They also found genomic sites associated with osteoarthritis, a disease that disables many across the United States. The results may help begin to illuminate how we got up on our own two feet, even while our closest relatives stayed on all fours, Nature Reports.