In DepthHUMAN EVOLUTION

Neandertal genes linked to modern diseases

Science  12 Feb 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6274, pp. 648-649
DOI: 10.1126/science.351.6274.648

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Summary

When modern humans met and mated with Neandertals about 50,000 years ago, they picked up genes that are shaping health and well-being today. In a new study on p. 737, researchers use a powerful new method for scanning the electronic health records of 28,000 Americans to show that some Neandertal gene variants today may boost the risk of depression, skin lesions, blood clots, and other disorders. The work reveals a dozen Neandertal genes likely to cause significant risk of disease today. Neandertal genes aren't all bad. Two other new studies identified three archaic genes that boost immune response. And most archaic genes that persist in humans were likely beneficial in prehistoric times. But some now cause disease because modern lifestyles and environments are so different. For example, a gene variant that makes blood clot faster might have been life-saving in prehistory, when people hunted dangerous animals and mostly died young. But today that variant boosts the risk of stroke.