Neanderthal DNA influences modern humans - Houston weather, traffic, news | FOX 26 | MyFoxHouston

Neanderthal DNA influences modern humans

Updated: Jan 29, 2014 02:16 PM
  • Melissa's HealthworksMore>>

  • How to reduce those food allergies

    How to reduce those food allergies

    Monday, July 14 2014 4:28 PM EDT2014-07-14 20:28:55 GMT
    Ask the DoctorAsk the Doctor
    The number of allergies is skyrocketing. Some reports show as many as one-in-five Americans is allergic to something, including different types of food. The important question is: Is there anyway to reduce this obnoxious and potentially life-changing problem?
    The number of allergies is skyrocketing. Some reports show as many as one-in-five Americans is allergic to something, including different types of food. The important question is: Is there anyway to reduce this obnoxious and potentially life-changing problem?
  • A surprising health boost

    A surprising health boost

    Monday, July 14 2014 2:56 PM EDT2014-07-14 18:56:08 GMT
    Doctors often say your "gut" is the gateway to health. If it's healthy, chances are you are healthy. That's why it's important to know about a condition called "leaky gut" that can cause all kinds of issues.
    Doctors often say your "gut" is the gateway to health. If it's healthy, chances are you are healthy. That's why it's important to know about a condition called "leaky gut" that can cause all kinds of issues.
  • Eating fish can help prevent a stroke

    Eating fish can help prevent a stroke

    Monday, July 7 2014 3:00 PM EDT2014-07-07 19:00:50 GMT
    Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. and a leading cause of adult disability, but doctors want you to know that 80 percent of strokes can be prevented! Cardiologist Dr. John Higgins, from U.T. Memorial Hermann and Harris Health, shares some ways to prevent this top killer.
    Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. and a leading cause of adult disability, but doctors want you to know that 80 percent of strokes can be prevented! Cardiologist Dr. John Higgins, from U.T. Memorial Hermann and Harris Health, shares some ways to prevent this top killer.

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 29, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Comparisons between modern humans and Neanderthals are usually meant as either an insult or a joke. But a new study suggests that many people today still harbor bits of Neanderthal DNA that affect their health.

These remnants of Neanderthal DNA are linked with genes that play a role in conditions such as diabetes, Crohn's disease, lupus and cirrhosis of the liver, as well as behaviors such as smoking, the researchers said.

The investigators also found these Neanderthal DNA fragments are found at high levels in genes that determine skin and hair traits, and at low levels in regions of the X chromosome and genes associated with the testes.

The findings show the ways that genetic material inherited from Neanderthals can be both beneficial and harmful for modern humans, according to the authors of the study, which was published Jan. 29 in the journal Nature.

"Now that we can estimate the probability that a particular genetic variant arose from Neanderthals, we can begin to understand how that inherited DNA affects us," study senior author David Reich, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, said in a Harvard news release.

"We may also learn more about what Neanderthals themselves were like," Reich said.

Previous research has shown that Neanderthals interbred with early modern humans in Europe and Asia 40,000 to 80,000 years ago, and that about 2 percent of the genetic material of modern people without African ancestry can be traced to Neanderthals. Modern Africans have little or no Neanderthal DNA because their ancestors did not mingle with Neanderthals.

In this study, the researchers examined genetic variants in about 850 people with non-African heritage, nearly 200 people from sub-Saharan Africa, and the 50,000-year-old remains of a Neanderthal.

The investigators discovered that the genetic makeup of modern people with non-African heritage had some regions with high levels of Neanderthal DNA and other areas with far lower amounts of Neanderthal DNA.

Nine genetic variants associated with diseases related to immune function (such as diabetes) and to certain behaviors (such as the ability to quit smoking) likely came from Neanderthals, the researchers said. They added that more variants with Neanderthal origins are likely to be found.

The investigators also found high levels of Neanderthal DNA in genes that affect certain proteins that help make skin, hair and nails tough, and can be helpful in colder regions by providing thicker insulation.

"It's tempting to think that Neanderthals were already adapted to the non-African environment and provided this genetic benefit to humans," Reich said.

Irene Eckstrand, of the U.S. National Institute of General Medical Sciences, added: "The story of early human evolution is captivating in itself, yet it also has far-reaching implications for understanding the organization of the modern human genome."

The U.S. National Institute of General Medical Sciences partially funded the study.

"Every piece of this story that we uncover tells us more about our ancestors' genetic contributions to modern human health and disease," Eckstrand said in the news release.

More information

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History has more about Neanderthals.

Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

*DISCLAIMER*: The information contained in or provided through this site section is intended for general consumer understanding and education only and is not intended to be and is not a substitute for professional advice. Use of this site section and any information contained on or provided through this site section is at your own risk and any information contained on or provided through this site section is provided on an "as is" basis without any representations or warranties.
Powered by WorldNow

KRIV FOX 26
4261 Southwest Freeway
Houston, TX 77027

Phone: (713) 479-2801
Fax: (713) 479-2859

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices