The Top 10 Human Genes

As the purposes for various genes are identified on a weekly basis in the news, this list will be obsolete in a few months, but I wanted to post this. There aren’t enough plain-English reviews of human genes out there. I apologize if I bullox up something. My criteria was based on the importance of the gene to human beings specifically, novelty, and how well we know the gene does what we think it does.

Click the links for any of the genes listed to learn about how the gene appears to work:

1. FOXP2: This gene may be the most important of all in separating the humans from other primates. FOXP2 is crucial to our ability to talk to the elaborate degree we humans are able. A British family with an abnormal copy of FOXP2 has “immobility of the lips, tongue, and mouth, which makes their speech garbled.”

2. OT: The oxytocin gene is what makes mothers motherly, lovers snuggly, and housepets cuddly. It’s a chemical reward our bodies give us for forming social bonds with one another through physical contact.


Image by Fvasconcellos

3. AVPR1a: One of Homo Sapiens’ strongest adaptations for survival is our social-bonding, our willingness to sacrifice our own well-being for the community and work together for common goals. A variant of AVPR1a appears to have a strong influence on this behavior. Nicknamed the “altruism gene,” it is also found in other species that exhibit strong social bonds. (Another variation of this same gene leads to ruthless behavior, earning it a “ruthless gene” nickname.)


4. SRY: Carried on the The Y Chromosome (often considered a “genetic deadzone”), this is the gene responsible for the masculinization process. Mammals lacking the SRY gene are female; therefore, men are the mutation. This gene is important for sexual dimorphism, as the evolutionary adaptation known as “sex” may allow species to diversify their genes and evolve more quickly.

5. OPN1LW: The Gene for Color Vision is found in the retina, and people with color blindness probably have a defective OPN1LW. The evolutionary importance of OPN1NW has downgraded the importance of olfactory genes (the genes for our sense of smell), which have been going dead in our recent evolutionary history, because smell is not as important for survival when you can see in color.

6. RB1: this was the first of the Tumor suppressor genes discovered. The entire Human Apoptosis Gene Array is responsible for killing cells in your body that have gone cancerous before they are able to spread. These genes are like the enforcers for the police-state that makes up your multi-cellular existence.

7. FIT2: This is a gene that many of us would like to knock out the way researchers have knocked it out in animals to prevent fat storage; however, without this gene it’s doubtful humans would have survived this long as fat storage is crucial to surviving times of famine.

adult neural stem cells
In culture, the number of
adult neural stem cells triples
in the presence of the
Sonic hedgehog protein.

8. Sonic the Hedgehog: Cool for being named after a Sega Genesis video game character, but also cool for its importance. Part of the hedgehog family of genes, which are regulators of animal development, Sonic is crucial to the development of neural stem cells.

(Not part of this list is the POKemon gene, found to cause cancer, had to be renamed after a lawsuit by Nintendo.)

9. HAR1F: An important gene separating us from other animals, HAR1 has mutated at an accelerated pace since we split off from other primates a few million years ago. The gene is believed to affect brain development, but more research is needed to understand what it does exactly.

10. Noncoding or “Junk” DNA: It appears that about 80-90 percent of the human genome serves no purpose, and we don’t know why. Are we carrying the “extinct genes” of our ancient ancestors? Are there messages from god written in our DNA, as some creationists want to believe? Are these great genetic deserts a way of preserving our good genes, protecting them by diluting their chance of mutation? There is a genetics joke that Junk DNA actually reads, “this space intentionally left blank.” Junk DNA makes the list for inspiring so much controversy and speculation.

Honorable Mention:

Gene Responsible For Eating Whole Goddamn Bag Of Chips

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