Author Topic: Neanderthals in the News  (Read 4973 times)


  • Miscreant Erendrake
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Re: Neanderthals in the News
« Reply #30 on: October 10, 2017, 02:27:37 AM »
There are a couple of new papers about newly sequenced Neanderthal genes.

"New Clues to How Neanderthal Genes Affect Your Health" | National Geographic


This reconstruction of a Neanderthal female unveiled in 2008
was the first made using ancient DNA evidence.
Image credit: Joe McNally

If your arthritis is bad today or you’re slathering on aloe for an early autumn sunburn, Neanderthals may be partly to blame.

Scientists announced today the second complete, high-quality sequencing of a Neanderthal genome, made using the 52,000-year-old bones of a female found in the Vindija cave in Croatia.

Together with the genomes from another Neanderthal woman and a host of modern humans, a suite of analyses is yielding new clues about how DNA from Neanderthals contributed to our genetic makeup and might still be affecting us today.

For instance, one new study appearing in the journal Science [full paper available with a free AAAS account] suggests that Neanderthal genes contribute 1.8 to 2.6 percent of the total genetic makeup for people of Eurasian ancestry. . . .

But don’t go blaming Neanderthals for all your medical woes, cautions study leader Kay Prüfer at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. After all, hundreds if not thousands of factors influence gene expression.

“These are just associations, so that doesn’t mean if you have a particular variant of a gene, you either will or won’t have a disease. It means sometimes you might,” Prüfer says.

What’s more, some of the Neanderthal contributions are potentially helpful.

“When we looked, there was one variant that was more certain, for LDL cholesterol, and the gene the Vindija individual carried is protective,” Prüfer says. Low-density lipoprotein, commonly called “bad” cholesterol, is associated with fatty buildups in arteries, so genetic protections would help guard against issues such as heart disease.

“A common misconception is the things that come from Neanderthals are generally bad,” Prüfer says, “but that’s not entirely true.”

[. . .]

In a separate study released today in the American Journal of Human Genetics, two of Prüfer’s colleagues, Michael Dannemann and Janet Kelso, took a slightly different tack. Rather than look at disease-related genes, they looked at how ancient genes might account for physical appearance and even some behaviors.

This team compared the Altai Neanderthal’s genes with genetic and—for the first time—physiological data from 112,000 individuals of northern European descent who contributed their information to the UK Biobank.

Dannemann and Kelso found 15 regions in the Altai Neanderthal genome that frequently overlap with sections of the Biobank group’s genomes. These genes determine hair and eye color, how badly you sunburn, and even sleep time preference, or whether you’re a morning person or a night owl.

Again, just having the gene isn’t a guarantee for anything—the Neanderthal genes are just as likely as modern genes to have an effect. But it’s intriguing to know that they remain firmly lodged in our makeup.

Dannemann says he and Kelso plan on repeating the research using the new Vindija genome and an expanded Biobank cohort of 500,000 people, hoping to reveal even more hidden associations.

[Continues . . .]

A briefer but altogether less satisfactory pop-science article about the Dannemann, Kelso paper is available here.
« Last Edit: October 10, 2017, 02:42:43 AM by Recusant »
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