Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Walking On All Four: Genetic Glitch Causes Human Children In Turkey To Do This

By Elaine Meinel Supkis

Due to a missing gene on the 17th chromosome, a family in Turkey has children who walk like our lemurian ancestors. This is a very interesting case and proves, yet again, how genes control our bodies and how few genes seperate us from our distant relatives.

From the BBC:
Five siblings from Turkey who can only walk on all fours could provide science with an insight into human evolution, researchers have said.
The three sisters and two brothers could yield clues to why our ancestors made the transition from four-legged to two-legged animals, says a UK expert.
This is most interesting. I have posited in the past that not only was bipedalism a part of humanity's past, it is for a number of the Great Ape families, all of them, I would dare say. Namely, for the last 8 million years, bipedalism is what seperated the orangatang, gorilla, chimpanzee and human family from the get-go. The knuckle-walking of the other families is a recent innovation, I bet, in less than the last 3 million years!

Whenever our ancestors went on all four, they did it the same way these children are walking: flat palmed. The knuckle walking innovation had a very bad downside: it made the fingers inept and unable to make tools or groom well. In other words, it is a net loss. To increase preambulation, the gorilla and chimpanzee lost the ability to use their fingers for delicate tasks, dooming them into an evolutionary cul-de-sac.

Our most distant ancestors were insect eaters who ate some fruits when available abut anyone living in the wild knows, there are always insects whereas fruits are a very iffy thing. To catch bugs, our ancestors needed clever, fast hands that can pluck things swiftly, ever try to catch flies? Heh. Must be where the urge to pull off bug wings comes from, a deep genetic trait.

From Agence France Press:
All five are mentally retarded and have problems with language as a result of a form of underdevelopment of the brain known as cerebellar ataxia.
This is the most exciting part of this case! Are the genes for developing the part of the brain for speech this connected with bipedalism? So many interesting doors beacon to be opened. From a private web page created by a husband who lost his wife to degeneration of this part of the brain.
By definition, "ataxia" is a state of incoordination. The cerebellum is the "microprocessor" which controls and regulates motor-control neuron messages. So when upon consultation the Practitioner has intensively quizzed the patient and ruled out all the routine triggers for incoordination - such as inebriation, inner-ear conditions and countless others, the term "cerebellar" gets added to the "ataxia" label. But this is still not a "diagnosis".

The first move by a Neurologist when confronting an ataxia which defies explanation is to commission an MRI Scan of the cerebellum. He is looking for many things but in particular for a shrinkage / degeneration of the cerebellum which unlike "cerebellar ataxia" (which you will remember is just an incoordination symptoms label) is defined as "cerebellar atrophy". And this "is" a diagnosis .

It is odd to me that the abbreviation "CA" is often wrongly used interchangeably to represent both "Cerebellar Ataxia" and "Cerebellar Atrophy". They are really quite different "animals". One is a symptoms label and the other a diagnosable physiological disorder.

There are many incarnations and degrees of severity and progressivity of cerebellar atrophy. At the present state of medical science there is no reversal path for atrophy of any organ and no panacea medicinal treatment or cure. But it will not always be so - because recent developments in stem-cell regrowth of atrophied cells hold enormous promise for the future.
Apparently, when stricken later in life, one simply becomes increasingly disoriented and can't walk at all whereas these children seem quite mobile and able to do various tasks, they just can't stand up easily nor do they have any inner urge to do so.
From Web MD:
Aniridia-Cerebellar Ataxia-Mental Deficiency, also known as Gillespie Syndrome, is an extremely rare inherited disorder that is characterized by partial absence (aplasia) of the colored portion (iris) of the eye (Partial Aniridia), impaired coordination of voluntary movements due to underdevelopment (hypoplasia) of the brain's cerebellum (cerebellar ataxia), and mental retardation. Many affected individuals also exhibit a delay in the acquisition of skills requiring coordination of muscular and mental activity (psychomotor retardation). Aniridia-Cerebellar Ataxia-Mental Deficiency is believed to be inherited as an autosomal recessive genetic trait.
It seems, the family in Turkey, instead of trying to impose a bipedal regime on their children, let them follow nature's course. The good health and seeming happiness of the children in this case seems to make this a wise choice. I, for example, used to imitate animals such as using the much better otter system of swimming which is both safer and conserves energy in the most amazing way, one can swim effortlessly literally for miles by slithering through the water with small moves of the hands and feet to give more propulsion. It still baffles me why people want to swim the hard way, thrashing violently through the water instead of literally gliding along the surface, rolling over periodically.

I wonder if children suffering from this genetic problem are really being helped by shoving them into the bipedal straight jacket? After all, it isn't the most efficient way of getting around! Ask any four legged creature. They will look at you funny.

I grew up in high mountains with very thin air and I learned at about three years of age, four legs good, two legs, bad. I scrambled about the rocks and thorns on all four, moving along with absolute assurance. You can bet, I never fell down. By the time I was about nine, I could switch from bi to quad effortlessly which is why I could go all over the place as if it were flat ground. Like swimming, the less one thinks as a human, the easier it is.

In ancient chronicles like the Sagas of Iceland, there are tales of people like the children in Turkey. One family in a saga put their two retarded sons out with the sheep each spring and the boys contentedly hung out with them while the normal brothers ran around the oceans, burning people's homes, raping women and stealing stuff. Um. Evolution at work.
Previous Similar Articles
To return to homepage click here
To read more science news click here
Washington Pest