Which of Our Genes Make Us Human?

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Science  04 Sep 1998:
Vol. 281, Issue 5382, pp. 1432-1434
DOI: 10.1126/science.281.5382.1432

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For decades scientists have known that at least 98% of human DNA is identical to that of chimpanzees, but no one has been able to tie the few known molecular variations with chimp-human differences, such as body hair, language, or brain size. Geneticists and evolutionary biologists are now beginning to explore which genes separate us from the apes, and next month, a research team will report finding the first significant biochemical variation between humans and other apes: Humans lack a particular form of a ubiquitous cell surface molecule found in all other apes. Other teams are reporting newfound differences in the arrangements of DNA on the chromosomes of humans and other primates, and new sequencing projects are starting to compare primate and human DNA base by base (see sidebar).