Biomedical differences between human and nonhuman hominids: potential roles for uniquely human aspects of sialic acid biology

Bibliographic Collection: 
CARTA-Inspired Publication
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Nissi M Varki; Strobert, E.; Dick, E. J., Jr.; Benirschke, K.; Ajit Varki
Year of Publication: 2011
Journal: Annu Rev Pathol
Volume: 6
Edition: 2010/11/16
Pagination: 365-93
Date Published: Feb 28
Type of Article: Comparative StudyReview
Publication Language: eng
ISBN Number: 1553-4014 (Electronic)15
Keywords: &, *Disease Models, Animal, Animal Diseases/*physiopathology, Animals, Biological Evolution, histology/*physiology, Hominidae/*anatomy, Humans, N-Acetylneuraminic Acid/*physiology, Species Specificity

Although humans are genetically very similar to the evolutionarily related nonhuman hominids (chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans), comparative studies suggest a surprising number of uniquely human differences in the incidence and/or severity of biomedical conditions. Some differences are due to anatomical changes that occurred during human evolution. However, many cannot be explained either by these changes or by known environmental factors. Because chimpanzees were long considered models for human disease, it is important to be aware of these differences, which appear to have been deemphasized relative to similarities. We focus on the pathophysiology and pathobiology of biomedical conditions that appear unique to humans, including several speculative possibilities that require further study. We pay particular attention to the possible contributions of uniquely human changes in the biology of cell-surface sialic acids and the proteins that recognize them. We also discuss the metabolic incorporation of a diet-derived nonhuman sialic acid, which generates a novel xeno-autoantigen reaction, and chronic inflammation known as xenosialitis.


Annu Rev Pathol. 2011;6:365-93. doi: 10.1146/annurev-pathol-011110-130315.

Alternate Journal: Annual review of pathology
Author Address:

Glycobiology Research and Training Center, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, 92093-0687, USA.