Arthritis as a Side Effect of the Human Body’s Struggle to Survive Ice Age

icicles above snow

So far, there is no viable cure to make uncomfortable arthritis go away. Therefore, scientists tried to uncover the genesis of this condition to understand how an ideal treatment might look like. Eventually, they came upon a gene that is responsible for osteoarthritis risks as well as reduced height in people. So, they traveled back to Ice Age and found that this feature appeared while humans were in survival mode during Ice Age.

Genetics Reconstructed Human Bodies to Cope with Ice Age Conditions

Researchers at the Stanford University and Harvard University are closer to decipher the mysteries of arthritis condition. It turns out that even though in today’s world its presence brings nothing but joint pain, back days it was a genetic variant that kept humans’ survival mode in place. While African populations have rarely been in contact with such a disease, around half Asian and European people are experiencing it.

To understand this condition, scientists studied the gene that was responsible for arthritis. It turns out that at a time when people started migrating from warm to colder regions, their genetics favored this gene and pushed it forward in positive selection. The body preferred to stick to shorter bones for a sturdier structure to cope with frostbite. On top of that, this trait saved humans from risky bone fractures due to slippery ice.

Arthritis Is a Side Effect of Human Body’s Attempt to Preserve a Sturdy Structure in Cold Weather

All these advantages had one weakness though, which is arthritis. This disease usually occurs later in life. However, humans had to develop better survival chances at the moment. Therefore, positive evolutionary selection favored sturdiness that helped humans cope with present hostile weather conditions over long-term side effects.

The gene in question is called GDF5, and it is responsible for joint development and both formation. However, its mutations lead to malformations that cause in their turn joint problems and a shorter height in people.

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