Friday, 31 January 2014
Neanderthals gave us disease genes
Gene types that influence disease in people today were picked up through interbreeding with Neanderthals, a major study in Nature journal suggests.
They passed on variants involved in type 2 diabetes, Crohn's disease and - curiously - smoking addiction.
Genome studies reveal that our species (Homo sapiens) mated with Neanderthals after leaving Africa.
But it was previously unclear what this Neanderthal DNA did and whether there were any implications for human health.
Between 2% and 4% of the genetic blueprint of present-day non-Africans came from Neanderthals.
By screening the genomes of 1,004 modern humans, Sriram Sankararaman and his colleagues identified regions bearing the Neanderthal versions of different genes.
That a gene variant associated with a difficulty in stopping smoking should be found to have a Neanderthal origin is a surprise.
It goes without saying that there is no suggestion our evolutionary cousins were puffing away in their caves.read more
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