Rare Genetic Features That You Probably Don't Have

Everyone has a unique combination of genetic features that differentiate them from the rest of the population, guaranteeing that no two people are exactly alike. Many have rare mutations that give them abilities or physical features that most people don’t share. Genetic mutations are a vital part of evolution, and they can lead to differences that provide advantages as well as disadvantages.

Mutations in humans are extremely rare, and you probably don't have one, but those who do may have super strength, unbreakable bones, or striking physical features. Genetic abnormalities can lead to exceptional physical qualities that make those who have them particularly unique. Distinctive makeups in DNA give people unusual conditions that can be beneficial but may also cause complications.

Photo: kakissel / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

  • Some People's Bones Just Don't Break

    In 1994, scientists discovered a genetic mutation known as LRP5. The gene regulates the production and release of a protein that plays a major role in bone density. The mutation was discovered when a man involved in a serious car crash didn't suffer any fractures or broken bones. Researchers later found that he had family members who also had incredibly strong skeletons, one of whom underwent several failed hip replacements because doctors were unable to screw the prosthesis into his bone.

    Tests showed that the group had bones nearly eight times denser than the average person's, making them so tough that they were almost impossible to break under normal circumstances.

  • This Mutation Creates Very Strong Children

    Although it's been well documented in mice and cattle, there have only been a few instances of inactive myostatin genes in humans. The condition causes people to develop incredibly strong muscles. Children who are born with the mutation have lean and well-defined muscles at a young age, possessing greater strength than children of similar ages.

    Long-term health issues associated with the disorder are unknown, as it hasn't been widely researched.

  • There Are People Who Can't Contract HIV

    Up to 1% of those of Northern European descent may be resistant to HIV because of an incredibly rare genetic mutation called CCR5 delta 32. This abnormality essentially causes the CCR5 co-receptor to be much smaller than it normally is, so the HIV virus cannot enter cells.

    The receptor is closed, preventing the virus from taking hold in victims' bodies. Scientists have been working on a cure for the disease that involves using stem cells to mimic the genetics of those immune to HIV.

  • There Is A Rare Fourth Cone In Eyes That Allows Women To See 100 Million Colors

    The typical human eye has three cones that allow it to see a broad color spectrum. There are some people - called Tetrachromats - who have a rare fourth cone that allows them to see up to 100 million colors. For comparison, folks with three cones can see roughly one million colors.

    Researchers estimate this genetic mutation happens more often to women, and that up to 12% of the female population has this trippy mutation. So why don't we hear about more women being able to see a hundred million colors? It turns just having the genetic mutation doesn't guarantee the ability to see a wider variety of colors. There is random X chromosome inactivation that shuts off the fourth cone for some women.  

  • Some Folks Don't Need To Worry About High Cholesterol Or Heart Disease.

    In 2004, scientists discovered some people who are missing working copies of the gene PCSK9. While missing genes can lead to defects or deficiencies, this missing gene actually has a very beneficial trait: Those without functioning PCSK9 genes don't need to worry about high cholesterol. Pharmaceutical companies jumped on the discovery and quickly began working on drugs to block functioning PCSK9 genes in patients with dangerously high cholesterol. 

    Only a handful of African Americans are known to possess the genetic mutation. People with this mutation have a 90% reduced risk of heart disease.

  • It's Not A Piercing

    A preauricular sinus is a congenital condition that causes a small hole or dimple to develop on the outer ear. It is usually found at the top of the ear where it connects to the side of the head. Most of the time it's completely harmless, but it can make those who have it slightly more susceptible to infection.

    It's not particularly common in the West, where it is found in less than 1% of the population, but it's less rare in Asia and Africa where around four to 10% of the population have this mutation.