There is a fine line between over-performing and under-performing, and what makes one human and another superhuman. No evolution could possibly happen in the absence of mutations. Scientists believe that within the spectrum of human mutations, some would manifest as superpowers.

Call it medical miracles by miraculous humans, the following are some of the potent powers inherent in a few “superhumans”.

1. Toxin immunity

It is known that only immortals are immune to poison. In fact, they themselves are the antidote. However, for the villagers of San Antonio de los Cobres in Argentina, daily exposure to arsenic for centuries does not threaten their health. Geneticists from Lund and Uppsala universities had taken the genetic samples from 346 residents of the village and found that a higher-than average proportion of these people possessed the special gene which gives them the immunity.

The tolerance could be traced to the gene AS3MT which allows the body to flush out the toxins rather than let it accumulate to dangerous levels. Statistics show that a total of 6,000 people have this gene. Comparing this sample with other populations of Andes-dwelling Peruvians and other native South American populations, the researchers found that the incidence of the AS3MT gene was far more common amongst the people who had lived in the arsenic-rich environment for a long time.

Lead author Carina Schlebusch pointed out that the data "raises the possibility that, during a few thousand years, natural selection for tolerance to the environmental stressor arsenic may have increased the frequency of protective variants of AS3MT".

2. Heavy partying

The lifestyle of the rich and famous is often enmeshed with drugs, alcohol and little sleep. As a result, premature deaths are notably high among this musicians and entertainers. But rock star Ozzy Osbourne seemed to be going strong though he smoked, drank and injected heavy doses of substances all these years.

Researchers who studied his genetic code found a number of extremely rare gene variants in the regions of the genome associated with alcoholism and substances. For instance, a mutation of the ADH4 gene increases the amounts of proteins that remove alcohol from the body. Such genetic variations could explain his ability to sustain frequent heavy parties, and prolonged use of drugs, alcohol and sleeping pills.

3. Little sleep

Onscreen superheroes are portrayed as working round the clock and they never seemed jaded even with short sleep.

Research suggests that the gene DEC2 helps to regulate the amount of sleep we need each night to properly function. The average person requires eight hours or more while about 5% of the population do not require this much sleep because of the special gene that enables them to retain clarity and alertness despite sleep deprivation.

Researchers compared 100 pairs of twins and found that a twin with the p.Tyr362His variant of the BHLHE41 gene slept at least an hour less than his twin brother, who did not have the gene. This short-sleeping twin also had fewer mental errors during a 38-hour period without sleep. Despite sleep deprivation, he required less recovery sleep than his twin brother.

4. Eating metal

Throughout his career, Michel Lotito, a French "entertainer" known as Monsieur Mangetout or "Mr. Eats All", ate all sorts of non-consumable objects made of glass, rubber, and metal, along with a few gulps of mineral oil. Besides televisions, beds and shopping carts, the most outstanding meal was an entire Cessna 150 airplane, which he ate in small bits over two years.

Medically, it was clear that Michel suffered from a condition known as pica, a disorder characterised by the appetite for non-consumable foods like dirt, rocks, and metals. Geneticists explained this bizarre ability as being linked to the abnormally thick lining in his stomach and intestines which enabled his system to avoid the inevitable shredding that most people would experience.

5. Immunity to pain

Individuals differ in their thresholds of pain. However, some people live pain-free lives, and scientists say it is due to the low level of sodium that prevents the nerve cells from sending pain signals. These individuals have the SCN11A gene which determines the amount of sodium in the body’s cells.

However, the downside is they are prone to broken bones and accidental self-mutilation. Nevertheless, these rare potent genes may help to push forward new pain treatment.

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