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Neanderthals gave humans the gene for disease

Sunday, March 02, 2014 by: Yanjun
Tags: Neanderthals, modern humans, human genome

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(NaturalNews) The results of a new study by German and United States researchers showed that there is a genetic connection between Neanderthals and modern humans. This connection could be responsible for something as benign as being able to tolerate cold weather better, or something as sinister as being predisposed to developing type 2 diabetes. In spite of the fact that Neanderthals died out more than 30,000 years ago, their genetic material still thrives in people who live today.

Fascinating discovery

David Reich, a senior author of the paper that details the findings in the current issue of Nature Journal, is a geneticist at Harvard Medical School and part of the research project funded by the National Science Foundation that delved into this topic, and with astonishing results. The researchers found that Neanderthal DNA could make some people more susceptible to developing Crohn's disease, cirrhosis of the liver, lupus and more.

Neanderthals explained

A distant cousin of today's humans, Neanderthals are so named because they were first discovered in Neandertal, or Neander Valley, in Germany. Their remains, including stone tools and bones, have been found across a wide swath of the world stretching from central Asia to western Europe. Neanderthals existed for almost 200,000 years, and are closely related to the humans of today. In fact, the difference in the DNA of the homo sapiens and homo neanderthalensis differs by only .15 percent. This gap is the same as the widest gap found in the DNA of modern day humans.

Not just a disease link

In addition to links to possible diseases passed to modern day humans from their distant relatives, the Neanderthals, other genetic markups were noted as well. Keratin is the protein that is fibrous, and adds to the toughness of skin, nails and hair so that people can weather cold temperatures more easily. Its production in today's humans has been linked to the Neanderthals.

Germany and the United States perform ground breaking research

Reich, the Harvard Medical School geneticist, and Svante Paabo, based at Germany's Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, studied variances in the DNA of a 50,000-year-old Neanderthal whose genome sequence the team had previously studied and published, along with 176 individuals with sub-Saharan African heritage and 846 individuals with non-African lineage.

In addition to finding genome variants from Neanderthals relating to diseases linked to the immune system, the researchers also made a surprising discovery. Other variants showed a link between behaviors that could be controlled by DNA, such as the ability to quit smoking with ease. Researchers believe that their discoveries are just the beginning of the variants that will continue to show a definitive link between Neanderthals and modern day humans.

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About the author:
Sofiya has written articles on most health-related topics, including traditional medicine, alternative and naturopathic and natural treatments,health insurance, wellness, medical marijuana, diets and fitness.

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