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Pigments: zebrafish and humans

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanJanuary 15, 2009 7:50 AM


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About 3 years ago a paper was published on pigmentation which heralded the breaking of the dam when it comes to skin color genetics, SLC24A5, a Putative Cation Exchanger, Affects Pigmentation in Zebrafish and Humans. The zebrafish, a model organism familiar to evo-devoists the world over, played an important role in the paper. The new issue of Zebrafish is totally devoted to pigmentation. The press release was kind of weird, Zebrafish Journal Publishes Skin Pigmentation Studies That Shed Light on the Evolution of Race:

"With the election of the first African-American president of the United States, our society has taken a landmark step towards deracializing human conduct," says Stephen C. Ekker, PhD, Rochester, MN, Editor-in-Chief of Zebrafish. "As scientists, we contribute to this work by sharing genetic insights to demystify skin color and race."

OK.... In any case, there are two papers (both OA) that readers might find interesting. Skin Color in Fish and Humans: Impacts on Science and Society:

As genetic model systems, fish have played a key role in our understanding of a wide range of biological processes, including vertebrate pigmentation. In this review, we focus on one aspect of pigmentation, skin pigmentation, which has been of momentous importance in human history. Two fish models, medaka and zebrafish, played important roles in demystifying skin color and, by extension, the concept of "race." Related thinking has the potential to make two additional contributions to human welfare. Fish can be used to validate gene candidates from genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in what has been called "Systems Genetics." Because fish are familiar vertebrates, and share genetic mechanisms of skin color with humans, they also have outstanding potential as an educational tool--to "demystify" race, to increase public understanding of the role of model systems and evolution in science, and to enhance appreciation of both genetic and environmental factors that impact human health and society.

And, U.S. Scientists' Role in the Eugenics Movement (1907-1939): A Contemporary Biologist's Perspective.

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