Gorilla DNA closer to humans than thought say researchers

Researchers have successfully sequenced the genome of the western lowland gorilla showing that the primate is closer to humans than once thought, according to a new study in the journal Nature.

The gorilla is the last ape to have its genes decoded, according to Reuters, with the 4-year study confirming assumptions by scientists that chimpanzees remain our closest genetic relatives.

We share about 70 per cent of our genome with chimpanzees.

The Associated Press reported that although chimps are closest to humans, the gorilla still resembles about 15 per cent of our gene map, more than scientists thought.

"The chimpanzee is often cited as `our closest living relative' and this is certainly true based on total genome sequence, but the gorilla is nearly as close a relative," Owen Lovejoy of Kent State University, who did not participate in the study, said to the Associated Press.

National Geographic reported that geneticists took the DNA from from Kamilah, a 30-year-old femaile gorilla at the San Diego Zoo for the study.

According to the research, some of the genes we share with gorillas that cause illness in humans, do not seem to affect gorillas.

Bloomberg said that the gene, PGRN, has a mutation that causes dementia in humans, while TCAP causes difficulties for blood to leave the heart – both genes we share with gorillas who seem unaffected by them.

"If we could understand more about why those variants are so harmful in humans but not in gorillas, that would have important, useful medical implications," said one of the study's authors, Chris Tyler-Smith to the Associated Press.

Human beings separated from chimpanzees 6 million years ago, and from gorillas about 10 million years ago, according to the report in Nature.

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