Healthy humans carry nearly four times more mutated genes than originally believed

DNA strand

A group of scientists in the UK have proved that healthy human beings have a surprising amount of mutated DNA, reinforcing the old adage that "nobody's perfect." The fact that humans carry mutated DNA isn't a new concept, but a research paper just published in the American Journal of Human Genetics showed that the average person has an average of 400 defects in his or her genes, including at least a few associated with disease. "We found quite amazingly large numbers of deleterious and known disease-causing mutations," Chris Tyler-Smith of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, England told NPR. He went on to note that previous estimates "ranged from just a handful up to 100 or more serious disease-associated mutations" — quite a bit fewer than what this new study shows. It's still only a small portion of an entire human's DNA, though.

Tyler-Smith felt that it was "a bit surprising" that healthy people had so many mutations, but further inspection showed that most tended to be "mild" and related to "late-onset" conditions like heart disease or increased risk of cancer, but not something that would immediately affect a person's well-being. While it's a noteworthy finding, some scientists believe the study could lead to unnecessary fears among otherwise healthy individuals — Harvard geneticist Robert Green said that "the critical take-home" is that "simply having a mutation in a disease gene does not mean you have the disease or will get the disease."

The Verge
Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.



Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.