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article imageNeanderthal DNA persists in modern humans

By Tim Sandle     Feb 2, 2014 in Science
Two new studies demonstrate the extent of Neanderthal DNA that persists in modern human genomes. The genetic relationship is far greater than previously thought.
Researchers established that early humans and Neanderthals interbred, and that modern human genomes contain elements inherited from Neanderthals. This was shown in some research published last December in Nature, by Kay Prüfer and colleagues ( the research is titled "The complete genome sequence of a Neanderthal from the Altai Mountains").
Following this comes two new papers. Here, two independent research groups have characterized the extent to which Neanderthal genetic information is found in humans today. In a paper published in the journal Science, Benjamin Vernot and Joshua Akey of the University of Washington found that about 26 percent of human DNA matches that of Neanderthals. According to the New York Times, their findings suggested that Neanderthal genes contributed to the phenotype of skin in early humans. This paper is titled "Resurrecting Surviving Neandertal Lineages from Modern Human Genomes."
In the second paper, published in Nature, David Reich of Harvard Medical School and his colleagues have compared the genomes of 1,004 modern humans to the Neanderthal genome. They also found that Neanderthal DNA may have contributed to the evolution of skin and hair in modern humans. They also reason that Neanderthal-derived genes have contributed to the risk of diseases in humans, including type 2 diabetes, Crohn’s disease, and lupus. This paper is titled "The genomic landscape of Neanderthal ancestry in present-day humans."
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