Humans have some distinctive characteristics that separate us from other primates. A project of UC San Diego is CARTA, the Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny, which explores questions surrounding human identity and how we came to be what we are. In this video they present, you can hear from Evan Eichler of the University of Washington about some of the genetic burdens associated with being human.
Although humans and chimps have mostly the same genome, with over 96 percent of it being identical, researchers have begun to explore ways that gene regulation or other features of the genome might contribute a lot to being human. Around the time that humans diverged from their evolutionary ancestors eight to fifteen million years ago, there was a "burst" of duplication events in our genome.
Researchers have established that genes are usually introduced to the genome by duplication; just adding another copy of a gene. It seems that might cause some instability in the genome though. The duplication process in the human genome also has different consequences in humans, then when it happens in other species. In this talk, the nature and results of such duplications, which have occurred a lot in our genome, are presented. They have conferred advantages and diversity, but they have also caused problems and are associated with an increased burden of disease.