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20 July, 2024
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Are men about to go extinct?

The mystery of the disappearing Y chromosome in men


Scientists have long debated the fate of the Y chromosome, the genetic player in determining male characteristics. According to an article in The Conversation, recently published research suggests that concerns about its disappearance might be overblown, revealing a surprising twist in its evolutionary journey.

The Y chromosome, responsible for making individuals male, has far fewer genes than its counterpart, the X chromosome. While the X boasts around 1,600 genes, the Y limps along with just about 50, and most of them seem to be inactive or repetitive "junk DNA," signaling a potential decline.

The key male-determining gene, called SRY, resides on the Y chromosome. Over time, this chromosome has lost a significant number of its genes, making scientists wonder if it's on the brink of disappearing.

The study digs into why the Y chromosome has gotten smaller. Humans, along with other mammals, have a unique way of determining sex. However, the animal kingdom has a variety of sex-determination systems, making the Y chromosome's situation quite intriguing. It seems to be losing about 10 genes per million years, suggesting it could vanish in roughly 4.5 million years.

Despite concerns about the Y chromosome's future, scientists are divided. Some argue that it has stabilized, challenging the idea that it's on a path to extinction. However, uncertainties remain about how potential gene losses might affect the Y chromosome's role in making males.

If the Y chromosome were to vanish, what would happen to men, and could the human race survive? In the past, rodents without a Y chromosome evolved new ways to determine sex, but it's unclear if humans could do the same. Potential challenges in reproduction might lead to the emergence of different human-like species, raising intriguing possibilities for the far-off future.

In summary, the fate of the Y chromosome is still up in the air, and recent findings challenge earlier predictions about its disappearance. The study encourages further exploration into the complex world of human genetics and sex determination.

[Source: The Conversation]


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