Scientists are focusing on a relatively small number of human genes and neglecting thousands of others. The reasons have more to do with professional survival than genetics.
You have a gene called PNMA6F. All people do, but no one knows the purpose of that gene or the protein it makes. And as it turns out, PNMA6F has a lot of company in that regard.
In a study published Tuesday in PLOS Biology, researchers at Northwestern University reported that of our 20,000 protein-coding genes, about 5,400 have never been the subject of a single dedicated paper.
Most of our other genes have been almost as badly neglected, the subjects of minor investigation at best. A tiny fraction — 2,000 of them — have hogged most of the attention, the focus of 90 percent of the scientific studies published in recent years.
A number of factors are largely responsible for this wild imbalance, and they say a lot about how scientists approach science.