Neanderthal-derived DNA may pose risk of depression

New York, Feb 12 (IANS) The US Researchers have found correlations between Neanderthal-derived genes and various diseases in modern humans — including those influencing the skin, the immune system, depression, addiction and metabolism.

The researchers from Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, US, showed how ancient liaisons between Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans (AMH) continue to impact our genetic heritage.

A specific bit of Neanderthal DNA significantly increases risk for nicotine addiction and that a number of variants either positively or negatively influence the risk for depression, the study showed.

Neanderthal gene variants were significantly correlated with the risk for 12 traits. The correlations included those influencing the skin, the immune system, depression, addiction, and metabolism, the findings published in the journal Science showed.

“We discovered associations between Neanderthal DNA and a wide range of traits in modern humans, including immunological, dermatological, neurological, psychiatric, and reproductive diseases,” said John Capra, assistant professor at Vanderbilt University.

The researchers documented the lingering effects of Neanderthal-derived alleles by comparing a recent genome-wide map of Neanderthal haplotypes, or gene groups, with health records of 28,000 adults of European ancestry.

It is possible that some Neanderthal alleles provided a benefit in early AMH populations as they moved out of Africa but then became detrimental in modern Western environments, the researchers said.

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