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Revelan qué pudo convertir a los humanos en grandes corredores

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Un nuevo estudio asegura que la perdida de la funcionalidad de un solo gen, hace millones de años, pudo haber ayudado a los ancestros del ser humano a pasar de vivir en los bosques a convertirse en cazadores y recolectores de las áridas savanas africanas, con suficiente resistencia y capacidad para evadir depredadores, recorrer largas distancias y conquistar nuevos territorios.

Investigadores de la Universidad de California (San Diego, EE.UU.) revelaron que una mutación relacionada con la ausencia del gen CMAH coincide con la aparición de varios cambios clave en los cuerpos de los primeros homínidos, como piernas largas y glúteos más potentes que ayudaron a aumentar la resistencia física de nuestra especie.

Imagen ilustrativa

Para el estudio, publicado este 12 de septiembre en The Royal Society Publishing, fueron utilizados ratones corrientes y otros diseñados genéticamente para carecer del gen, los cuales fueron sometidos a correr en ruedas y cintas especialmente diseñadas.

“Evaluamos la capacidad de ejercicio [de los ratones que carecen del gen CMAH] y notamos un aumento en el rendimiento durante las pruebas en la cinta rodante y después de 15 días de ejercitación voluntaria en las ruedas”, señaló Jonathan Okerblom, coautor de la investigación.

Ventaja selectiva

Según el equipo, los ejemplares modificados mostraban una mayor resistencia a la fatiga, un aumento de las respiración mitocondrial y del tamaño de los músculos de las extremidades posteriores, lo que se traduce en una mayor cantidad de capilares que eleven el suministro de sangre y oxígeno.

El médico Ajit Varki, autor principal de la investigación, explica que esta característica contribuyó a mejorar la capacidad del músculo esquelético para la utilización de oxígeno: “Si los hallazgos se traducen en humanos, es posible que proporcionaran a los primeros homínidos una ventaja selectiva cuando bajaron de los árboles para convertirse en cazadores-recolectores permanentes en el campo abierto”.

“Una espada de doble filo”

Se cree que el CMAH mutó en el género ‘homo’ hace dos o tres millones de años, tal vez en respuesta a las presiones evolutivas causadas por un antiguo patógeno, y alteró la forma en que los homínidos posteriores y los humanos modernos usamos los ácidos siálicos, una familia de moléculas de azúcar que recubren las células animales.

Sin embargo, la pérdida del gen CMAH no fue del todo buena. Si bien puede haber convertido al hombre en mejor corredor y aumentar su inmunidad, se cree que está relacionado con mayor riesgo de ciertos tipos de cáncer y diabetes. “Son una espada de doble filo”, recalcó Varki.

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