China is a powerhouse that thrives on progress. One multipurpose field seeing great strides from this country is genetics. In recent years, China’s studies have included many world firsts and incredible medical advances.
There exists a strange side, too. Scientists are creating things never seen in nature, rewriting the rules on reproduction, and keeping the rest of the world nervous with their penchant for controversial human editing.
10. Biggest Genetic Study
In 2018, a genome sequencing company based in Shenzhen was given access to a massive database. The genetic information of around seven million pregnant Chinese women was gathered while testing for a disorder linked to Down syndrome.
Only about 141,000 women were chosen, but it remains the biggest project examining Chinese genetics. The mothers represented nearly all provinces and even 36 of the 55 ethnic minority groups.
The findings were interesting. Certain genes were linked to height and body mass, the ability to have twins, and how severely herpesvirus 6 manifests. Even migrations left their mark on the Chinese genome. The largest wedge of the population is made up of the Han (92 percent).
The study found that this group had the same genetic structure, but differences hinged on where they lived. Their northern and southern origins reflected in migrations known to have happened after 1949, when work became more available to the east and west. Gene variations also cause different immune responses from northern and southern Han. Intriguingly, certain minority groups had more genetic diversity than the Han.
9. Unknown Giant Panda
The giant panda is iconic to China. Although these creatures are the subject of considerable studies, researchers still know very little about how they evolved. The only sure fact is that giant pandas split from other bears 20 million years ago.
Then, in 2018, a fossil turned up in Cizhutuo Cave in China. The creature died 22,000 years ago and looked a lot like a giant panda. To gauge what exactly it was, researchers accomplished an amazing feat—they pieced together 148,329 fragments of its DNA.
When the ancestry became clear, two things made the fossil unique. The DNA was the oldest ever found from a giant panda, but it also revealed a lineage nobody even knew existed. This panda split from its living cousins about 183,000 years ago. Its genetic code also revealed a great number of mutations that probably helped this species to survive the Ice Age in which it lived.