|Sara Jerome opines about hints about overcoming the threat of arsenic contamination in the water supply may reside in an unexpected place ... the human body. People in a south American desert have evolved to detoxify potentially deadly arsenic that laces their water supply, a paper in the New Scientist recently reported.|
... The research shows that toxic chemicals can also drive human evolution. Understanding how it happened may help guide public health measures to reduce the suffering caused by arsenic poisoning, which threatens an estimated 200 million people worldwide. And it can also help scientists understand how we detoxify chemicals like arsenic, a process that is still fairly mysterious....
If you find a signal of natural selection, then you know this has been a huge issue for human survival in the past, Dr. Mattias Jakobsson said indicating that people have survived in Chile Atacama desert despite dangerous levels of arsenic contamination in the region. The region has the highest arsenic levels in the Americas, according to researchers.Could it be that arsenic negative effects on human health, such as inducing miscarriages, acted as a natural selection pressure that made this population evolve adaptations to it? A new study suggests this is indeed so, she reported.
As Mother Nature Network reported, while the ability to drink poisonous water might not top the list of many people most desired super powers, it is a different story for those who live in South America Atacama Desert, where scant water sources are often tainted with high levels of arsenic.
The new research, published in February in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, focused on an enzyme called AS3MT which the body uses to to incorporate arsenic in two compounds, monomethylarsonic (MMA) acid and dimethylarsinic (DMA) acid. People who metabolise arsenic more efficiently convert more of it into the less toxic, more easily expelled DMA, according to New Scientist paper.