Skip to comments.Scientists Find Gene That Controls Type of Earwax in People
Posted on 01/30/2006 3:02:26 AM PST by Pharmboy
Earwax may not play a prominent part in human history but at least a small role for it has now been found by a team of Japanese researchers.
Earwax comes in two types, wet and dry. The wet form predominates in Africa and Europe, where 97 percent or more of people have it, and the dry form among East Asians. The populations of South and Central Asia are roughly half and half. By comparing the DNA of Japanese with each type, the researchers were able to identify the gene that controls which type a person has, they report in today's issue of Nature Genetics.
The dry form is quite common in Native Americans, confirming other genetic evidence that their ancestors migrated across the Bering Strait from Siberia 15,000 years ago.
But earwax seems to have the very humble role of being no more than biological flypaper, preventing dust and insects from entering the ear. Since it seems unlikely that having wet or dry earwax could have made much difference to an individual's fitness, the earwax gene may have some other, more important function. Dr. Yoshiura and his colleagues suggest that the gene would have been favored because of its role in sweating.
They write that earwax type and armpit odor are correlated, since populations with dry earwax, such as those of East Asia, tend to sweat less and have little or no body odor, while the wet earwax populations of Africa and Europe sweat more and so may have more body odor. Several Asian features, like small nostrils, are conjectured to be adaptations to the cold. Less sweating, the Japanese authors suggest, may be another adaptation to the cold in which the ancestors of East Asian peoples are thought to have lived.
(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...
Not for your ping lists necessarily, but your interest.
Does that mean you're a hybrid?
Finally, something useful out of the NYT.
Wow, I can sleep at nights now!
j/k I actually think this is very interesting.
So I guess French people squirt liquid earwax streams sideways?
Shouldn't this be in "Breaking News"?
Only on a slow newsday...I did hit the "Earwax ping list," though.
Please allow me to be the first:
This is HUGH and SERIES!!!
(It's good to know that the gene folks are working on the important stuff first.)
I must be...at least I know my Y-chromosome comes from Sctoland.
FWIW, I was once working in the lab, searching for resonant frequencies of piezoelectric crystals, which we had groen * hand polished, and while tuning the freqs my ear emitted a huge ball of earwax. EUREKA! Funny how so many discoveries occur when one really isn't searching for that thing anyways.
What a role model!
Ear wax defined
Ear wax is a normal product of the ear which protects the skin of the ear from water and infection. Ear wax is formed from wax glands in the external ear canal as well as other components such as dead skin, sweat, and oil. The primary component of ear wax is keratin (derived from dead skin). Ear wax thus differs slightly from cerumen which is the secretory product of the ceruminous glands in the external auditory canal (Hawke, 2002).
Different individuals vary considerably in the amount and consistency of their ear wax. There are two types described, wet and dry, which are inherited. Dry wax is common in Asia, while wet wax is common in western Europe. Dry wax, also known as "rice-bran wax", contains by weight about 20% lipid (fat). Oddly enough, rice-bran wax is associated with a lower incidence of breast cancer (Hawke, 2002).
Wet wax consists of approximately 50% lipid (Burkhart et al, 2000). Wet wax can be either soft or hard, the hard wax being more likely to be impacted. While ear wax is generally simply felt to be a nuisance, in medieval times, ear wax was used as a component of pigment for illumination of manuscripts (Petrakis, 2000). Too little ear wax increases the risk of infection (Fairey et al, 1985). Too much wax also increases the incidence of infection and hearing loss. So, you want just enough.
While we are not aware of a study of this, some people (and some ears) are "wax producers", and others remain wax free without much maintenence.
What can go wrong with ear wax ?
Wax can plug up the ear, causing hearing to be reduced, and a full feeling in the ear
Wax can trap bacteria in the ear, leading to infection. This is usually painful or at least itchy.
Ear wax can obscure vision when the doctor looks in your ears, possibly hiding a dangerous process.
lets hope we didnt pay a fortune in taxes to fund this study.
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