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Science: Down syndrome also in chimpanzees - the second case discovered

Science: Down syndrome also in chimpanzees - the second case discovered


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Down syndrome is a chromosome defect in humans. In Down syndrome, those affected have a third copy of chromosome 21 - that's why the defect is also called trisomy 21.

The chimpanzee with trisomy 22
Chimpanzees and other great apes usually have 24 pairs of chromosomes, for a total of 48. The chimpanzee Kanako, however, has three copies of chromosome 22 instead of two.

Close relatives
Chimpanzees are our closest relatives after Bonobos. In social behavior, chimpanzees show great similarities with humans. They produce tools with a certain planned procedure, can learn many terms of the symbolic language and, according to some researchers, have the idea of ​​a self.

Empathic primates
In particular, they have the ability to empathize in the sense that they imagine the feelings of others, that is, to a certain extent they can put themselves in others, which was considered explicitly human until Jane Goodall's research.

Similar diseases
Because of their close relationship to people, they also have many diseases, disorders and genetic defects that are the same or very similar to ours.

infection risk
Glass panes instead of bars in zoological gardens not only serve to improve visibility, but are also intended to prevent apes from becoming infected with human viruses and bacteria.

What are the symptoms of the chimpanzee?
Kanako has heart disease, poorly developed teeth and poor vision. At the age of one she squinted and went blind at seven. However, the researchers know too little about the chromosomes in apes to clearly attribute these symptoms to the defect.

The researcher Satoshi Hirata also emphasizes that as a baby she showed no significant disturbances in the development of her behavior.

social behaviour
Kanako usually remains separated from other chimpanzees because their guards fear that other members of the species may be aggressive towards her. However, the chimpanzee Roman, who grew up with Kanako, is very friendly to her.

Only the second case
Scientists have previously used a triple copy of chromosome 22 in chimpanzees, namely 1969. It is still unknown how common the defect is in wild chimpanzees.

As common as in humans?
According to Hirata, trisomy 21 occurs in one in every 600 births in humans, and chimpanzees might be just as likely to be disturbed. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

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