8 Genetic Mutations That Can Give You 'Superpowers'

Flickr/Bureau of Land Management Oregon

More than 99% of your genetic information is exactly the same as every other person on the planet.
Your genes determine your skin color, gender, and hair color and whether or not you have certain genetic diseases.
But it's in that less than 1% that things get interesting. Specific genetic variations allow some of us to acquire certain — dare we say super — qualities.

Here are the ways our genes can predispose us to have special abilities:

ACTN3 and the super-sprinter variant.

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Flickr / Oscar Rethwill

We all have a gene called ACTN3, but certain variants of it help our bodies make a special protein called alpha-actinin-3. This protein controls fast-twitch muscle fibers, the cells responsible for the speedy tensing and flexing of the muscles involved in sprinting or weight-lifting.

This discovery, which happened around 2008 when geneticists studying elite sprinters and power athletes found that very few among them had two defective ACTN3 copies, is what led to the gene being dubbed the "sports gene."

Among the general population, however, some 18% of us are completely deficient in the speedy-muscle-contracting protein — we inherited two defective copies of ACTN3.

hDEC2 and the super-sleeper mutation.

REUTERS/Luke MacGrego

Imagine if you could feel totally energized on just four hours of sleep each night. Some people are naturally that way. These people are called "short-sleepers," and scientists are only recently uncovering what exactly predisposes them to be this way.

For the most part, researchers believe that the capabilities are connected to specific genetic mutations, and have publicly identified one on the hDEC2 gene.

That means that short-sleeping habits can run in the family, and scientists hope to one day learn how to harness this ability so it can be used to help people switch up their sleeping routines.

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