Your Earwax Type According To Your DNA!

Earwax, also known as cerumen, is a natural substance produced by the ear canal to protect the delicate ear structures from dust, bacteria, and other foreign particles. Surprisingly, not all earwax is the same, and its composition can vary among individuals.

Recent advances in genetic research have shed light on the genetic basis of earwax types, revealing how different family members can have varying types of earwax.

In this blog, we will explore the different types of earwax, the genetic factors influencing its composition, and how DNA testing with whole exome sequencing can detect fascinating insights into this seemingly mundane bodily secretion.

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Types of Earwax

Earwax comes in two main types: wet and dry.

  1. Wet Earwax (Type A): This type of earwax is sticky and dark-coloured. It is predominant in populations of African and European descent.

  2. Dry Earwax (Type B): Dry earwax is flaky and lighter in color. It is commonly found in populations of East Asian, Native American, and Indigenous Australian descent.

The type of earwax an individual has is determined by their genetic makeup, making it an intriguing subject for genetic research.

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Genetics and Earwax Types

The ABCC11 gene, located on chromosome 16, plays a pivotal role in determining an individual's earwax type. This gene encodes a protein called P-glycoprotein 2 (PGP2), which is responsible for transporting lipids, such as fatty acids, across cell membranes. A single genetic variant in the ABCC11 gene can lead to variations in the PGP2 protein's functionality, influencing the type of earwax produced.

  • Wet Earwax (Type A): People who have at least one functional copy of the ABCC11 gene will produce wet earwax. The PGP2 protein effectively transports lipids, resulting in sticky and dark-coloured earwax.

  • Dry Earwax (Type B): In contrast, individuals with two non-functional copies of the ABCC11 gene will produce dry earwax. The absence of functional PGP2 protein leads to a diminished lipid transport capacity, resulting in flaky and lighter-coloured earwax.

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Family Variations in Earwax Types

As earwax type is influenced by specific genetic variants, it is common for family members to share the same earwax type. For instance, if both parents carry the genetic variant associated with wet earwax (Type A), their children are likely to have wet earwax as well. Similarly, if both parents have the variant linked to dry earwax (Type B), their children will likely exhibit dry earwax.

However, due to the complexity of genetics, there can be instances where family members have different earwax types. This can occur if one parent has wet earwax while the other has dry earwax or if there are other genetic modifiers that influence the expression of the ABCC11 gene.

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DNA Testing and Whole Exome Sequencing

Advancements in genetic testing have made it possible to uncover an individual's earwax type with precision. Whole exome sequencing is a powerful technique that examines the protein-coding regions of an individual's genome, including the ABCC11 gene. By analyzing the genetic variants within this gene, scientists can determine whether a person is likely to have wet or dry earwax.

Your Personalised Genetic Story

Earwax may seem like a minor and often overlooked bodily secretion, but its diversity and genetic underpinnings make it a fascinating topic of study.

The discovery of the ABCC11 gene's role in determining earwax types has deepened our understanding of how genetics can influence seemingly mundane traits. With DNA testing and whole exome sequencing, we can now explore our genetic heritage and unravel the mysteries of our earwax types, further showcasing the marvels of human genetics.

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  1. Takei N, Nishio H, Uchida Y, et al. The relationship between cerumen types and the wet/dry earwax-associated SNP c.538G>A in the ABCC11 gene. BMC Genetics. 2011;12:21.

  2. Yoshiura K, Kinoshita A, Ishida T, et al. A SNP in the ABCC11 gene is the determinant of human earwax type. Nat Genet. 2006;38(3):324-330.

  3. Martin A, Saathoff M, Kuhn F, et al. A functional ABCC11 allele is essential in the biochemical formation of human axillary odor. J Invest Dermatol. 2010;130(2):529-540.

  4. Nakano M, Miwa N, Hirano A, et al. Haplotype Associated with Wet Earwax in a SNP in ABCC11 is not Associated with Parkinson's Disease. Neurobiol Aging. 2012;33(7):1849.e5-7.

* Please note that at Parkside Designs Art we are not doctors or scientists. The information in this blog is informative only. We accept no liability in any form for the information provided.

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