Newly Evolved, Uniquely Human Gene Variants Protect Older Adults from Cognitive Decline

December 1, 2015

Humans evolved unique gene variants that protect older adults from neurodegenerative disease, thus preserving their valuable contributions and delaying dependency —

Many human gene variants have evolved specifically to protect older adults against neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases, thus preserving their contributions to society, report University of California, San Diego School of Medicine researchers in the November 30 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. …Read the full story from the UC San Diego Newsroom


Ajit Varki, MD, and Pascal Gagneux, PhD, led the study. Dr. Varki is Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Cellular and Molecular Medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine, adjunct professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and co-director of the UC San Diego/Salk Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny (CARTA).

Dr. Gagneux is associate professor of pathology and associate director of CARTA.

How Infectious Disease May Have Shaped Human Origins

Inactivation of two genes may have allowed escape from bacterial pathogens, researchers say

Roughly 100,000 years ago, human evolution reached a mysterious bottleneck: Our ancestors had been reduced to perhaps five to ten thousand individuals living in Africa. In time, “behaviorally modern” humans would emerge from this population, expanding dramatically in both number and range, and replacing all other co-existing evolutionary cousins, such as the Neanderthals. … Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom

Sexual Selection by Sugar Molecule Helped Determine Human Origins

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine say that losing the ability to make a particular kind of sugar molecule boosted disease protection in early hominids, and may have directed the evolutionary emergence of our ancestors, the genus Homo….Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom

Dr. Ajit Varki

Dr. Ajit Varki, pictured above left, is senior author along with Dr. Pascal Gagneux, who is professor in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine. Ajit Varki, MD, is Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Co-Director of the Glycobiology Research and Training Center, and Co-Director of the UCSD/Salk Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny.   |  Read the study published in PNAS (free full text)

Glycans Enter Mainstream of Biomedical Science

UC San Diego leads new national program to further develop the science of glycobiology

Scientists at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have received a major 7-year, $18 million grant to begin translating emerging discoveries in the field of glycosciences into new discoveries and therapies related to heart, lung and blood diseases…. Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom

Dr. Ajit Varki

Principal investigator and project leader Ajit Varki, MD, is Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Co-Director of the Glycobiology Research and Training Center, and Co-Director of the UCSD/Salk Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny. | Read the project abstract

Missing Molecule Raises Diabetes Risk in Humans

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego say an evolutionary gene mutation that occurred in humans millions of years ago and our subsequent inability to produce a specific kind of sialic acid molecule appears to make people more vulnerable to developing type 2 diabetes, especially if they’re overweight. … Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom

The authors of the study report include Ajit Varki, M.D. (pictured), Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Cellular & Molecular Medicine and co-director of both the Glycobiology Research and Training Center and the UC San Diego/Salk Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny (CARTA).   Read the published article (full text).

In the Media: Dr. Ajit Varki

Dr. Ajit Varki is one of a team of researchers whose recent study is described in the Wired article, “Rare Gene Glitch a Clue to Genomics Mystery.”

Ajit Varki, M.D., is Professor of Medicine in the Division of Hematology-Oncology and Professor in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine. He co-directs the UC San Diego Glycobiology Research and Training Center and the UC San Diego/Salk Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny (CARTA). He is Associate Dean of the Physician-Scientist Training Program.

In the Media: Dr. Ajit Varki

The UC San Diego/Salk Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny (CARTA) and its co-director, Dr. Ajit Varki, are featured in the story, “Cutting to the Bone Of Human Origins,” in Science.

Ajit Varki, M.D., is Professor of Medicine in the Division of Hematology-Oncology and Professor in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine. He co-directs the UC San Diego Glycobiology Research and Training Center and is Associate Dean of the Physician-Scientist Training Program.