Lasting effects of Neanderthal DNA in modern humans

Recent scientific findings suggest that Neanderthal genes make up 1 to 4 percent of the genome of modern humans, whose ancestors left Africa, but the question of how strongly those genes still influence human traits remains unanswered. A multi-institutional research team led by Cornell University has developed new computational genetics tools to investigate the genetic implications of a 50,000-year-old interbreeding between humans of non-African descent and Neanderthals. (This study only applies to the descendants of people who came from Africa before the Neanderthals died out, specifically those of European descent.)

In a study published in eLife , researchers report that some Neanderthal genes are responsible for certain traits in modern humans, including many that have a significant impact on the immune system. Overall, however, the study shows that modern human genes tend to succeed in successive generations. „Interestingly, many of the identified genes involved in modern human immune, metabolic and developmental systems may have influenced human evolution after the ancestral migration out of Africa,” said study co-lead author April (Shinsu) Wei. Professor of Computational Biology in the College of Arts and Sciences. „We made our custom software free to download and use for anyone interested in further research.”

Using the UK Biobank’s vast dataset, which contains genetic and trait information from nearly 300,000 non-British people of African descent, the researchers analyzed more than 235,000 genetic variants from Neanderthals. They found that 4,303 differences in DNA play a significant role in modern humans and affect 47 distinct genetic traits, such as how fast a person can burn calories or a person’s natural immune resistance to certain diseases. Unlike previous studies that couldn’t completely exclude genes from modern human variation, the new study used more precise statistical methods to focus on the variation attributable to Neanderthal genes.

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Although the study used a dataset of nearly all Caucasians living in the United Kingdom, the new computational methods the team developed could provide a path to extracting evolutionary insights from other large databases to deeply explore the genetic influences of archaic humans on modern humans. . „For scientists studying human evolution interested in understanding how interbreeding with ancient humans tens of thousands of years ago still shapes the biology of many present-day humans, this study can fill some of those gaps,” said senior investigator Sriram Sankararaman. Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. „More broadly, our findings could provide new insights for evolutionary biologists looking at how the reverberations of these types of events can have both beneficial and detrimental effects.” (ANI)

(This story was not edited by DevDiscourse staff and was generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)

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