Microcephalic Osteodysplastic Primordial Dwarfism MOPD II, Dwarfism Gene Discovery

The next article that really fascinated me was an article that I fond from the ABC NEWS website. The actual title to the Article is “Dwarf Gene Discovery: Explanation for Hobbit Species?” . You can find the original article by clicking HERE.

As always, I will copy and paste the entire article right below, highlight the sections that I found the most fascinating ot most important, and then at the very bottom write a full review, analysis, or critique of the article and what it means for the application of height increase.

Dwarf Gene Discovery: Explanation for Hobbit Species?

By DAN CHILDS (@DanChildsABC)     –   ABC News Medical Unit     –     Jan. 3, 2008

In a discovery that could help boost understanding of a rare type of dwarfism, researchers announced today that they have found a genetic culprit for the condition.

But in addition to increasing knowledge of this condition, the researchers’ conclusions could also fuel the continuing debate over the origins of a mysterious group of hobbits that walked the earth tens of thousands of years ago.

In the study, released today by the journal Science, an international team of researchers led by Anita Rauch of the Institute of Human Genetics in Erlangen, Germany, examined a number of individuals with a condition known as microcephalic osteodysplastic primordial dwarfism type II — or MOPD II for short.

What they found was that a key mutation in chromosome 21 likely led to the condition — a finding that represents a first-of-its-kind genetic explanation for this type of dwarfism.

Practical Applications

“Adults with this rare inherited condition have an average height of 100 centimeters and a brain size comparable to that of a 3-month-old baby, but are of near-normal intelligence,” the researchers noted in their article.

Genetic experts not affiliated with the work said the finding offers intriguing hints to the genetic puzzle behind this form of dwarfism.

The study provides scientists a mechanism for the development of this condition, said Anne Bowcock, professor of genetics at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “I find it intriguing that alterations in this pathway can result in the characteristics of this disease.”

But Bowcock added that it’s unlikely that the discovery of this genetic variation will have a practical application in terms of screening and genetic counseling.

“Regarding screening for and detecting genetic abnormalities within this gene in the womb, this is a very rare syndrome, and screening for mutations within this gene in the womb is not practical at this stage,” she said.

End of the Hobbit Species?

But as interesting as the findings are to geneticists, the researchers’ conclusions at the end of the article could have even bigger implications for the hobbit remains, whose discovery was announced in 2004.

On one side of the debate are those who believe that the diminutive hominids that inhabited Flores Island about 95,000 to 12,000 years ago represented an entirely new species of humans. On the other side are those that contend that a genetic abnormality, perhaps like the one revealed in the new study, is responsible — which would mean that the hobbits would simply be the products of a genetic quirk that affected previously recognized species of humans of the period.

In short, if the hobbits were found to be merely the product of a gene mutation, they would not be accorded the status of a species.

‘Wild Suggestions’

But, Charles Hildebolt, a physical anthropologist at Washington University who has worked with Florida State University paleontologist Dean Falk in the study of Homo floresiensis, said that pegging the characteristics of the hobbits to this mutation is an example of a “pathology of the week” in the continuing debate over the origin of the mysterious hominids.

“Chances are, there will be people who jump on the bandwagon with their pathology of the week to explain [the hobbits],” he said. “One just needs to look carefully at the published studies before making wild suggestions.

“I don’t think this adds a whole lot to the debate. The claims here do not provide any real data; they just make these suggestions at the end of the paper.”

He said that many characteristics of Homo floresiensis identified in other research over the past three years defy the conditions brought about by the gene mutation.

He added that a study led by Falk just last year even compared the brain structure of modern-day dwarfs and normal humans with the likely brain structure of the hobbit. And he says the hobbit brain structure differed from both modern-day examples.

“Obviously the researchers did not read this study.”

And Hildebolt added that other characteristics — such as the presence or absence of a chin and prominent brow ridge, or leg length relative to body size — also suggest the hobbits of Flores Island did not owe their appearance and stature to this gene mutation.

He said that with these findings in mind, it would be premature to relegate the existence of Homo floresiensis to a genetic quirk, rather than according them status as a species of their own.

“This pathology has a fun conclusion, but the evidence they provide in support of this conclusion is just not too convincing to me,” Hildebolt said.

“There is an ongoing debate as to whether the Late Pleistocene hominid fossils from the island of Flores, Indonesia, represent a diminutive, small-brained new species, Homo floresiensis, or pathological modern humans,” the researchers wrote, adding that people with MOPD II appear to have several features in common with the hobbits — most notably a height of roughly one meter and certain facial features.

“Given these similarities, it is tempting to hypothesize that the Indonesian diminutive hominids were in fact humans with MOPD II,” the researchers noted. “With the identification of the genetic basis of MOPD II, this hypothesis may soon be testable.”

Me: For you the reader, this article on the genetic origins of a type of dwarfism may not be applicable to the goals of height increase. However, from a long term perspective, this new discovery is important. I personally have thought about going back to Graduate School to get my Ph. D in Genetics because genetics and stem cells fascinate me for their amazing possibilities of application. 

The Microcephalic Osteodyplastic Primordial Dwarfism (MOPD) Type II represents a definite extreme case of short humans stature since the average height of people who suffer this condition is around 100 cm (or 3 ‘ 4″). The mutation is believed to have happend on the 21st chromosome. Whether the anthropologists and paleontologists figure out the people for the Flores Island was really a completely different humanoid species or they just suffered from the disorder, we must also remember that our DNA with them is still more than 99.5% similar. Most articles on chimpanze dna comparison studies have said that the chimpanzee has a 98% similar DNA structure to the human (Resource 1, Resource 2).  Clearly the individuals found on Flores Island are closer to us in DNA than the Chimpanzees and since there are supposed to be an estimated 30,000-50,000 true genes in the entire human genome of 23 chromosome pairs, we can do a genetic comparison and figure out the differences between us and them 

 — Homo floresienses has been described as one of the most spectacular discoveries in paleoanthropology in half a century—and the most extreme human ever discovered…..The species inhabited Flores as recently as 13,000 years ago, which means it would have lived at the same time as modern humans, scientists say….”To have early humans on the remote island of Flores is surprising enough. That some are only about a meter tall with a chimp-size brain is even more remarkable. That they were still there less than 20,000 years ago, and [that] modern humans must have met them, is astonishing.”…The researchers estimate that the tiny people lived on Flores from about 95,000 years ago until at least 13,000 years ago. — (Resource)

Me: What the height increase seeker (H.I.S.) can take away from this article is that the more and more we can know and understand the myriad ways that the human genome and DNA can be manipulated to create short stature, we can also note in the future to focus on those same areas if we ever decide to testing DNA manipulation to create and develop taller human beings, 


2 thoughts on “Microcephalic Osteodysplastic Primordial Dwarfism MOPD II, Dwarfism Gene Discovery

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  2. Robert Sagehorn

    MOPD II is a rare discovery that ought to be preserved. It would be a shame if this gene tissue was lost. Mutation has been a significant means of survival. I came upon this article inquiring about primordial dwarf IQ test scores. Sadly, most research on the MOPD II gene seems to be related to helping little people become taller people. But I think primordial dwarves would make practical space astronauts and planet colonizers. A 3 foot tall human being needs less space, and less resources (materials, food) to sustain themselves than 6 foot tall humans. For that matter, one could conclude that going small would allow the earthly human population to grow three times larger while using the same amount of materials and food we consume today. The whole island dwarfism mutation has had survival significant results. In other words, something positive has come from something thought of as a negative. My suggestion is to preserve this MOPD II gene and use it for something positive, like space exploration. But would NASA ever be convinced to built space vehicles designed for primordial dwarves? Also, with human population growing so rapidly these past 500 years, isn’t the earth just an island in the solar system? This MOPD II gene is a rare find. Rather than experiments to counter its effects on growth, I would like to see research on using this gene to introduce small size onto what would otherwise be a normal sized human being. That would be a tuff one to get volunteers for, unless their was a good trade off incentive, like a future astronaut program.


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