Blame it on the Neanderthals...

2016-02-12 21:34
(iStock)

(iStock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - If you can't seem to quit smoking, or have a tendency to become depressed, you might be able to blame your Neanderthal heritage.

After a massive study linking tens of thousands of modern people's medical records to their genetic histories, certain genes inherited from Neanderthals have been linked to psychiatric disorders, blood clotting and addictive behaviours, researchers said on Friday.

The legacy of human ancestors from Africa interbreeding with Neanderthals in Europe has left today's people - at least those who come from Europe or Asia - with anywhere from 1- to 4% of their genes traceable to Neanderthals, scientists announced in 2010.

This study, in the February 12 edition of the journal Science, is the first to compare Neanderthal DNA in the genomes of a large population of adults of European ancestry - about 28 000 people - and their health records to show a "subtle but significant impact on modern human biology", said the article by John Capra, an evolutionary geneticist and assistant professor of biological sciences at Vanderbilt University.

"Our main finding is that Neanderthal DNA does influence clinical traits in modern humans," he said.

"We discovered associations between Neanderthal DNA and a wide range of traits, including immunological, dermatological, neurological, psychiatric and reproductive diseases."

The study found that modern human DNA contains 135 000 gene variants that come from Neanderthals, who disappeared around 30 000 years ago.

They also found that these variants were linked to a higher risk of 12 illnesses, including depression and heart attack.

Specifically, Neanderthal genes were linked to a significantly higher risk of nicotine addiction.

Many bits of Neanderthal DNA were associated with psychiatric and neurological effects.

Some gene variants from Neanderthals raised the risk of depression, while others lowered the risk.

"The brain is incredibly complex, so it's reasonable to expect that introducing changes from a different evolutionary path might have negative consequences," said co-author Corinne Simonti, a doctoral student at Vanderbilt.

Other effects were seen in the blood.

Some Neanderthal variants led to increased blood coagulation, which would be helpful in healing more quickly from wounds and preventing pathogens from entering the body.

But today, people with thicker blood have a higher risk of stroke, pulmonary embolism and pregnancy complications.

Neanderthals lived in Europe and western Asia for about 200 000 years before the arrival of modern humans.

Researchers believe that the modern population, as it evolved, retained some Neanderthal DNA because it was helpful for coping in new environments outside Africa.

However, many of these traits may no longer be advantageous in modern environments.

A previous study, published in January in the American Journal of Human Genetics, found evidence that Neanderthal genes were linked to certain immune disorders, allergies and asthma.

Read more on:    genetics

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.