We’re all different, and yet a few of us have rare features that occur in only a few percent of people. Some are just nice physical features, but there are those Superman himself would envy.
1 – The inability to feel pain: congenital analgesia
Imagine being able to put your hand on a burning stove or prick yourself with a needle without feeling any pain whatsoever. Some people have a rare genetic mutation that makes them able to do just that, a condition called congenital analgesia.
Similarly to the unbreakable-bone mutation, it seems like the inability to feel pain would be an awesome “superpower” to have. However, the condition is extremely dangerous since people with the disorder could have serious injuries, particularly internal ones, but have no idea.
The pharmaceutical industry is also attempting to capitalize on this genetic mutation, with hopes of creating an entirely new class of painkillers that would be non-addictive. It could be years of trials until a drug is released, however.
2 – The HIV-resistant mutation: CCR5
Some fortunate people have a genetic mutation that disables their copy of the CCR5 protein — the protein used by the HIV virus as a doorway into human cells.
If a person lacks CCR5, it’s extremely unlikely that they’ll become infected with the disease, and some people even have two copies of the gene mutation, making them the most resistant to HIV of all. Only about 1 percent of Caucasians have two copies of the gene mutation, and it’s even more rare in other ethnicities.
3- The malaria-resistant variation
Unfortunately, this “superpower” comes in the form of a blood disorder called sickle cell disease. People with two copies of the sickled hemoglobin gene suffer from a reduced ability to transport life-giving oxygen through the body. However, people with one sickle gene and one normal hemoglobin gene lead healthy lives and their condition renders them ten times less likely to catch a serious case of malaria!
Hopefully scientists will be able to use information from the malaria-resistant variation to produce more innovative malaria treatments in the future.
4- The super-sprinter variant: ACTN3
All of us have a gene called ACTN3, but variants of the gene lead to different abilities in sports.
Certain variants help the body make a protein called alpha-actinin-3, which controls fast-twitch muscle fibers and the flexing of the muscles during weightlifting or sprinting. It also controls the cells responsible for speedy muscle tensing.
In 2008, geneticists who were studying power athletes and elite sprinters found that very few of them had two defective ACTN3 copies, whereas nearly 20 percent of the general population inherited two defective copies — rendering these individuals completely deficient in the speedy-muscle-contracting protein, according to Business Insider.
This 2008 study is what led to ACTN3 being called the “sports gene” and it could help explain why some people are super athletes compared to those with no athletic ability.
5- Incredibly dense bones
Studying the gene LRP5 (responsible for the mineralization of bones), scientists discovered mutations which cause diseases accompanied by bone fragility.
Yet there’s another type of LRP5 mutation: it gives a person super dense bones that are almost impossible to break and skin that’s less prone to aging.
Although it sounds cool, there are drawbacks. When an elderly patient needed a replacement for a worn-out joint, his excessively dense bones didn’t let doctors help him.
6- “Golden” blood
It’s not golden in the literal sense, but it has a unique feature: it contains no antigens.
This feature was discovered in 1961, and we currently know about 40 people with Rh-null blood.
9 of them are incredibly valuable donors because their blood is suitable for any recipient.
7- Genetic chimerism
Ancient Greek myths described the chimera as a creature with the head and neck of a lion, the trunk of a goat, and a snake’s tail. Human chimerism is an additional set of DNA.
Sometimes it appears in the form of “mosaic” skin or heterochromia, but most often it remains unnoticed.
Chimerism isn’t dangerous, but it can cause family problems. There was a case where a mother almost lost her children because genetic analysis showed they weren’t related.
8- Double lash line
This is a rare genetic disorder called “distichiasis.“ The most famous owner of ”double” eyelashes was Hollywood star Elizabeth Taylor.
Distichiasis usually doesn’t bring any inconvenience. Yet in some cases, the second row of eyelashes can be too close to the mucous membrane of the eye, causing irritation.
9- A hole near the ear
This is a congenital auricular fistula, formed during fetal development, occurring in about 5% of people.
It’s assumed to be an atavism, reminiscent of the fact that the ancestors of all living beings once had gills. This “hole” is often inherited genetically and can be present on one or both ears.
It can be removed surgically, but in itself it’s not dangerous.
10- Additional ribs
“Excessive” ribs are more often found in women.
Such ribs are also called cervical, as they’re located in the cervical spine area. Their sizes vary from small growths to full ribs.
In most cases they don’t affect the health and well-being of a person, but sometimes they reach impressive sizes and cause discomfort.
11- Ability to perceive “invisible” colors
Another feature that’s more commonly found in women is tetrachromacy: the ability to distinguish shades much better than ordinary people do.
With a dandelion, we describe its color as yellow. A tetrachromatic person will see a whole range of shades. This condition is caused by mutations in the X chromosome.
This difference allows people to see up to 99 million colors, while an ordinary person perceives not more than 1 million.
12- Small need for sleep
These people can fully restore strength twice as fast as most of us. Among such lucky ones were Margaret Thatcher, Salvador Dali, Winston Churchill, and Nikola Tesla.
And it’s not just about the right sleep regimen. The DEC2 gene is a small mutation found in low-sleep people. Scientists from the University of California came to the conclusion that people with the DEC2 mutation can perform all the same tasks in less time.
13- Impossibility of cholesterol growth
There’s an extremely small group of lucky people who can eat almost anything without worrying about cholesterol. Their risk of developing heart disease is reduced by as much as 90%.
The reason is they don’t have enough working copies of the PCSK9 gene.
Pharmaceutical companies decided to take advantage of this and began creating a drug that would block PCSK9.