Are You Right- Or Left-Handed? It Could Be Genetic

Whether you're a righty or a lefty could depend on your genes, a new study suggests.

European researchers identified a network of genes that seem to have a hand -- no pun intended -- in establishing left and right in embryos, which they say could then have an impact on handedness.

"The genes are involved in the biological process through which an early embryo moves on from being a round ball of cells and becomes a growing organism with an established left and right side," study researcher William Brandler, a Ph.D. student in the MRC Functional Genomics Unit at Oxford University, said in a statement.

Published the journal PLOS Genetics, researchers conducted a genome-wide association study to identify any gene variations that seem to be linked with handedness. They discovered a particular variant in the PCSK6 gene that appears to particularly play a role in establishing left and right.

When this particular PCSK6 gene is disrupted in mice, researchers found that there were defects in left-right asymmetry, such as an organ being on the right side of the body when it should be on the left.

However, the findings aren't to say that genes are solely responsible for handedness. "As with all aspects of human behavior, nature and nurture go hand-in-hand," Brandler said in the statement. "The development of handedness derives from a mixture of genes, environment, and cultural pressure to conform to right-handedness."

LiveScience reported on a study that came out last year suggesting a more evolutionary reason for handedness, particularly why left-handed people are less common than right-handed people. LiveScience reported on findings, published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface and conducted by study researcher Daniel M. Abrams and graduate student Mark J. Panaggio:

"The more social the animal -- where cooperation is highly valued -- the more the general population will trend toward one side," says Abrams, an assistant professor of engineering sciences and applied mathematics at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.

"The most important factor for an efficient society is a high degree of cooperation. In humans, this has resulted in a right-handed majority."

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