There are super humans walking among us, who thanks to little tweaks in their genetic makeup, can do amazing things. Here are 15 genetic mutations that give seemingly ordinary people extraordinary abilities.
1. Super Coffee Drinkers
There are those that love their coffee, and there are others who take it the next level—known as “super coffee drinkers.” For these people, it goes beyond the taste and results in a physiological response to caffeine. The genetic variants include BDNF and SLC6A4, which produce a reward sensation when someone ingests caffeine—making them want to drink more.
2. Super Vision
Here’s a genetic mutation that’s just for the ladies. For women who have a variation on their pigment genes, OPN1MW and OPN1MW2, they can see a deeper range of color. Known as tetrachromacy, about 12% of the female population have this “super vision,” which allows them to see hues undetectable by most other people.
3. Adventure Gene
The great adventurers of our time might have had more in common than just ego; maybe they had DRD4-7R, a genetic variant also called the “adventure gene.” Scientists first found this mutation in 1999, after they studied 18 indigenous populations living along African migratory routes towards Europe. They determined that DRD4-7R was common in people who have traveled the farthest from Africa.
4. Happiness Gene
It seems that the Danish are predisposed for happiness. The gene that controls this emotion has two versions—”long” and “short.” As you might imagine, longer is better, because it accounts for more serotonin (aka the feel-good chemical) in the brain. And, it matters how far you are from Denmark; countries farthest from the epicenter of smiles are less happy than the ones that are closer to them.
5. Odorless Gene
Did you know that there are two types of sweat glands in the human body? Eccrine glands, which are relatively odorless, are the ones that make people “glisten” when they exercise or it’s super hot outside. The other type of gland, called Apocrine, is what produces the funky smell; the kind that makes you enviably feel self-conscious as you perspire. But if you’re ethnically Asian, you might lack the pesky Apocrine gland—or, at the very least, you’ll have a lot less of them on your body. Thanks to this genetic mutation, you’re rendered odorless.
6. Antidote to Arsenic
When you hear someone ingested arsenic, you assume that they’ve met their demise. Even in tiny doses, it can cause liver damage or cancer. But when it comes to a population of people high in the Andes Mountains, they’ve got the genetics to fight its ill effects. In 2006, researchers visited a small town called San Antonio de los Cobres in northern Argentina and found that their drinking water had high levels of arsenic. This is nothing new and dates back 7,000 years. What’s helped them survive all this time is A3MT, a gene that neutralizes arsenic and flushes it out of the body before it can do this damage.
7. Running Gene
Being a fast runner isn’t all about training. Some people are born with the gift of speed, thanks to a mutation of the gene ACTN3. It controls the fast-twitch muscles fibers that allow us to run; those who have more of them are better at all sports, but especially sprinting.
8. Bad Fat Immunity
The Inuit population doesn’t need to worry about the adverse effects of eating bad fats. Although their diet consists of fatty animals, their genes have adapted accordingly. Their mutation limits their bodies’ production of fats, both good and bad—most notably LDL cholesterol that can cause heart disease.
9. Unbreakable Bones
If you’re lucky enough to have a mutation of the LRP5 gene, you’ve probably never had a broken bone. LRP5 is responsible for bone density, and those who have the mutated version have extra-strong skeletons. An extended family in Connecticut who has it has no history of fractures, and their special mutation is helping us know more about the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis.
10. Short Sleeper Gene
Some people just don’t need that much sleep. Called the “short sleeper” mutation, a variation of the hDEC2 allows people to feel energized with just four hours of sleep. About 1% of the population can sleep less than the recommended seven or eight hours without the impairment that comes from sleep deprivation.
11. Ozzy Osbourne Gene
Ozzy Osbourne is known for his hard-partying ways. But, unlike many others who engaged in this lifestyle, he’s remained really unscathed from its otherwise detrimental effects. Well, there’s a scientific reason for it—Osbourne has a variant in his genes. Specifically, he has a mutation of ADH4, which increases the proteins that remove alcohol from his system.
12. Immunity to Pain
Wouldn’t it be great to have an immunity to pain? Those who have a variation of the SCN11A gene might as well be. The gene regulates the amount of sodium in our cells, and our nerves rely on sodium to send out pain signals. But the ability not to feel pain has its downsides. People with this mutation are prone to accidents that could result in things like broken bones.
13. Super Taster Gene
Approximately one-fourth of the population is known as a “super taster”, whose taste buds are more sensitive than the rest of us. The TAS2R38 is the bitter-taste receptor gene, and those with the mutation are more likely to ask for cream and sugar with their coffee.
14. Malaria Protection
This one is certainly a “super gene,” but not necessarily for everyone. Those who are carriers for sickle-cell disease—meaning they have abnormal hemoglobin in their red blood cells—have more protection against malaria than those with normal hemoglobin.
15. Instant Glow
For some people, a glass of wine means an instant glow. If that’s the case, then something’s gone awry with the ALDH2 gene. Basically, the variation prevents a liver enzyme to convert an alcohol byproduct called acetaldehyde into acetate. Because acetaldehyde builds up in the blood, it makes people have rosy cheeks.