Could sharing DNA with a Neanderthal not be such a bad thing after all?

By Kanika Kamal

It has been widely established that modern day humans and ancient humans, such as Neanderthals and Denisovans, have not only had contact with each other, but have even mated with each other. These interactions are confirmed via traces in the modern human genome. Though previously there was no evidence that these traces in our genome have any benefits, now, our understanding is changing. In fact, researchers claim that “hybridization” could have important consequences, contributing to human’s ability to adapt to various environments and help with immunity. The researchers came to these conclusions after conducting a study in which the genomes of 500 geographically diverse subjects were analyzed. Interestingly, in the genomes of 27 individuals from the the pacific islands, such as Fiji, New Guinea, and Indonesia, these “archaic” sequences were expressed in high frequencies. This lead the researchers to conclude that these genes were advantageous in some way to these populations. Though these results are brand new, they have exciting implications for how these genes can affect human survival rates and how they might also be correlated with disease.

 

Cell Press. "Neanderthal inheritance helped humans adapt to life outside of Africa." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 November 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161110153149.htm>.