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  • Writer's pictureSinead Mackintosh

The Genetics of Earwax

Did you know that humans have different types of earwax? Yup, the stuff generally comes in two varieties. Wet and dry.

Human earwax type is determined by a single gene called ABCC11. The gene provides instructions for producing a protein that is involved in transporting substances in and out of cells. If a person has more water being transported into the earwax, then it will be moister than a person who has less water being transported into the earwax.

The ABCC11 gene has two common types: a "wet" type and a "dry" type. And remember, for most genes, we get two copies. One from Mom and one from Dad. People who have two copies of the "wet" type tend to produce wet, sticky earwax, while people who have one or two copies of the "dry" type tend to produce dry, flaky earwax.

It's worth noting that while the genetics of earwax type are relatively well-understood, the evolutionary significance of this trait is not fully understood. Some researchers have suggested that dry earwax may have been advantageous for early humans living in cold climates, as it may have helped to prevent frostbite in the ears. However, more research is needed to fully understand the evolutionary implications of earwax type.

This is just another example of how genetics affects us day to day even in the smallest ways!

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