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Neanderthal genetic code lives on in humans

Posted on Thursday, 30 January, 2014 | Comment icon 15 comments

Humand and Neanderthals share many similarities. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 Tim Evanson

Researchers have discovered that we possess up to one fifth of our prehistoric cousins' genetic code.

In an effort to learn more about the genetic similarities between Neanderthals and modern humans, Benjamin Vernot and Joshua Akey at the University of Washington sequenced the genomes of 600 people and then used a computer to identify gene variants that seemed to be Neanderthal in origin.

Their remarkable results suggested that the combined total amount of Neanderthal DNA present in modern humans was as high as 20%.

"Although Neanderthals are extinct, there's still a lot of genetic information about them floating around, in our own genomes," said Vernot. "It's not necessarily useful in that it will cure cancer, but it helps us to learn about our history."

It is believed that the genetic similarities are the result of encounters between Neanderthals and modern humans up to 65,000 years ago. Despite interbreeding being rare, some of the benefits obtained from the Neanderthal genes would have been sufficient enough to ensure their perseverance in humans all the way up to the present day.

The discovery is particularly helpful to scientists as it means it is possible to study a significant percentage of the Neanderthal genome without having to extract it from ancient fossils.

Source: The Guardian | Comments (15)

Tags: Neanderthal

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #6 Posted by avs76 on 31 January, 2014, 13:53
I read an article recently about a Rugby League player (Dave Taylor) here in Australia who has torn a calf muscle. What's interesting is apparently the "injured muscle only exists in the smallest percentage of the world's population. It is apparently a genetic throwback to our ancestry - a muscle used for climbing trees - and is super rare."
Comment icon #7 Posted by moonshadow60 on 31 January, 2014, 19:03
Someone with the name of gOOdfella should know better than to be rude to an old lady who simply asked an honest question. That just isn't necessary.
Comment icon #8 Posted by PhoenixBird88 on 1 February, 2014, 4:56
My uncle was recently in a Nat Geo experiment and had his genome sequenced. I am 2% Neanderthal on my mothers side. Id like to get mine sequenced as well, my Dads lineage is quite a mystery. I grew up being told my Mom was German and Irish, Dad- Mexican and Spanish. Yet, come to find out from the results of the study my moms side is primarily(43%) Asian.
Comment icon #9 Posted by Helen of Annoy on 1 February, 2014, 20:57
Because Science refused the idea of more than one modern human ancestor race. (It’s the influence of religion actually, god created the man, not to digress too far, so religious scientists stuck to that intentionally and non-religious ones out of set of reasons, ranging from conformism to stupidity.) DNA changed that dogma, but the terminology, apparently, still hasn’t changed.
Comment icon #10 Posted by Helen of Annoy on 1 February, 2014, 21:03
It may sound as stupid question, but what they meant with Asian? Asian-Asian, or Slavic? (I’m asking because it’s no wonder to bring Slavic genes from Europe, and there’s bizarre old belief about Asian origin of Slavs, while truly Asian genes couldn’t go unnoticed in Ireland or Germany.)
Comment icon #11 Posted by JGirl on 1 February, 2014, 21:15
Comment icon #12 Posted by TheSpoonyOne on 5 February, 2014, 0:18
That seems very strange, 43% Asian, as in East Asian I'm assuming, and you couldn't see this in her phenotype?
Comment icon #13 Posted by keninsc on 6 February, 2014, 9:18
I don't know why that so surprising we carry codes from all the way back to the earliest known primates from which we've defended. We don't just drop those codes.
Comment icon #14 Posted by Rlyeh on 6 February, 2014, 12:03
Smoking is caused by Neanderthals?
Comment icon #15 Posted by Lilly on 10 February, 2014, 12:24
I think it's time to review a couple of UM rules: 5a. Personal attacks: Attack the point being presented, not the person who is making it. 5b. Spelling and grammar: Do not point out mistakes or criticise other members on their spelling, grammar or punctuation.

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