Science and Tech


Blame Neanderthals For Our Disease Genes

A new study suggests genes associated with certain diseases might have been passed on to us by Neanderthals.
Posted at 4:54 PM, Jan 30, 2014

New research suggests we might have our Neanderthal ancestors to blame for certain diseases.

According to a new study published Wednesday in the journal Nature, genes associated with diseases like type 2 diabetes, lupus and smoking addiction in modern humans today were passed on to us by remnants of Neanderthal DNA.

Researchers led by Havard Medical School geneticists found that modern humans with non-African ancestry share about 2 percent of their genome with Neanderthals.

Previous studies revealed that, 50,000 years ago, modern-day humans left Africa and headed to Europe and East Asia. There, they crossed paths with Neanderthals. (Via BBC)

The two species coexisted for a while and mated, but the Neanderthals as a whole eventually died off about 30,000 years ago. That is, except for the Neanderthal genes that still exist in us.

According to The Independent, during the study, scientists analyzed the genetic makeup of 846 people of non-African ancestry, 176 from sub-Saharan Africa and one 50,000-year-old Neanderthal.

They found that certain parts of the non-African genome could be found in Neanderthal DNA, while other regions didn't show a trace of it.

According to Harvard Medical School's report, this mixture of DNA was linked to nine previously identified genetic variants that likely came from Neanderthals. They're reportedly related to immune function and behavioral traits, including the ability to stop smoking.

The BBC points out the smoking addiction parallel is shocking, but "it goes without saying that there is no suggestion our evolutionary cousins were puffing away in their caves."

Scientists expect that additional research will link even more genetic variants to Neanderthal DNA.