Posts Tagged ‘speech’

More speech gives fewer malignant breast tumours!

October 25, 2014

Who would have thought the ability to develop speech may be linked to the malignancy of breast cancer cells.

A new paper in Cell Stem Cell apparently shows that “silencing the Speech Gene FOXP2 Causes Breast Cancer Cells to Metastasize”Forkhead box protein P2 (FOXP2) is a protein that in humans is encoded by the FOXP2 gene and which is thought to enable speech and language development in the brain. It is also known to affect tissue development. While Neanderthals had the physical capability for speech it is not known if they had the FOXP2 gene. The new paper reports that suppressing the FOXP2 gene leads to more breast cancer cells turning malignant.

Perhaps the ability to talk is a survival factor for women?

The number of genes may be finite and limited but they are expert not only at multi-tasking but also in working in very many different “teams” with other genes.

Beth Israel Press Release:

It is an intricate network of activity that enables breast cancer cells to move from the primary breast tumor and set up new growths in other parts of the body, a process known as metastasis.

Now a research team led by investigators at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) has identified an unexpected link between a transcription factor known to regulate speech and language development and metastatic colonization of breast cancer.

Currently described online in Cell Stem Cell, the new findings demonstrate that, when silenced, the FOXP2 transcription factor, otherwise known as the speech gene, endows breast cancer cells with a number of malignant traits and properties that enable them to survive – and thrive. …

…….. FOXP2 has primarily been implicated in regulating speech and language development and several reports have described functions for this protein in developmental neurogenesis. Additional reports have also linked FOXP2 to tissue development, such as the lung.

“We were curious and wanted to find out the business of FOXP2 in breast cancer,” he adds. “Surprisingly, we found that its suppression in the tumor cells was sufficient to expand cancer stem cell traits and caused the cancer cells to metastasize much more vigorously.”

These findings agreed with similar results in which the authors determined that miR-199a upregulation and FOXP2 repression are prominent features of aggressive clinical breast cancers and represent independent prognostic parameters for overall patient survival.

“We are one step closer to understanding how cells in the tumor microenvironment, such as MSCs, promote the malignancy of neighboring cancer cells,” says Karnoub. “We’re now more closely investigating FOXP2’s potential role as a metastasis suppressor that needs to be downregulated for metastasis to take place.”


On when speech may have originated

March 3, 2014

A new paper suggests that the Kebara 2 Neanderthals, some 60,000 years ago, not only had the capability but also used speech. The capability for speech itself has now been pushed back to the common ancestors of Anatomically Modern Humans, Neanderthals and Denisovans to about 500,000 years ago. The picture we have of Neanderthals is now of a fairly sophisticated and complex species:

  1. Neanderthals may have spoken in a similar way to modern humans.
  2. Neanderthals are our closest extinct human relatives.
  3. Neanderthal DNA is over 99% identical to modern human DNA.
  4. Several theories for Neanderthal extinction exist, including impacts of climate change, competition with human beings, and the possibility that Neanderthals and humans interbred and were ‘absorbed’ into the human species.
  5. Neanderthals lived in Eurasia 200,000 – 30,000 years ago in the Pleistocene Epoch
  6. Neanderthals and our human ancestors lived on Earth at the same time.
  7. Neanderthals lived in family groups and looked after their sick and infirm. 
  8. Neanderthals used tools made from bone, stone, antlers and other materials. 
  9. Neanderthals used fire, and even ate cooked vegetables. 

Moreover it is clear that all non-Africans carry some 3% of Neanderthal genes. And so – in my speculation – it would be perfectly consistent with not only the Neanderthals of the Kebara 2 study having speech, but also with all Neanderthals from about 200,000 years ago, having some form of – at least – rudimentary speech.

I have no doubt that speech originated from an intense need to communicate and developed in complexity and sophistication as the complex needs of the societies that developed required more nuanced communication. And if this happened 500,000 years ago then I find it not implausible that there are connections between the controlled use of fire, the growth of complex social interactions, the need for nuanced communications and the development of speech.

Visions arise of camp fires and a society with time for gatherings and then – inevitably – for story-telling! And for tall tales. Lying after all is a construct of language!

But speech was probably invented many times and only became language when some critical mass of people shared the same sounds for the same meanings. Within a single tribe or troop this critical mass for the beginnings of a rudimentary language was probably no more than a handful of individuals. What the first words ever spoken were can only be a matter of speculation. A case can be made for the “ma”, “ba” and “pa” sounds being the first to be repeated but also among the earliest ever words for communication would have been danger, here, there, up, down, you, me, stop, come and go.

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