Neanderthal genes may have helped modern humans develop protection from viruses

Meet the Ancestors Neanderthal DNA contained genes which helped modern humans survive flu

When Homo sapiens crossed paths with their Neanderthal cousins tens of thousands of years ago in Europe, they also encountered unsafe new pathogens-and, though interbreeding, the genes to fight those infections, a new study suggests.

Current thinking is that modern humans began moving out of Africa and into Eurasia about 70,000 years ago. Scientists have been wondering if this 2% of Neanderthal DNA offered some genetic advantage to modern humans, and now researchers from the University of Stanford say modern humans may have inherited Neanderthals' viral defenses. Then the researchers cross-referenced the list with the database of the DNA of Neanderthal and identified 152 total fragment.

In the study, the researchers gathered a large dataset of several thousand proteins that interact with viruses in modern humans. Now, the study published in the journal Cell is reporting new details about the role of viruses in shaping evolution, in particular viral interactions between modern humans and Neanderthals.

Interbreeding between Neanderthals and modern humans is thought to have occurred multiple times and in multiple locales throughout prehistory, and different viruses were likely involved in each instance.

"It made much more sense for modern humans to just borrow the already adapted genetic defenses from Neanderthals rather than waiting for their own adaptive mutations to develop, which would have taken much more time", said David Enard, a former postdoctoral fellow in Petrov's lab.

Sex between Neanderthals and early modern humans at the time when these two human species coexisted, led to the exchange of pathogens and the development of General protection to combat viruses.

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To test their hypothesis, the scientists have compiled a list of more than 4500 genes in modern humans that are associated with virus protection.

After a series of studies, scientists concluded that breeding humans with Neanderthals was necessary for all of their descendants. "We believe that resistance to specific RNA viruses provided by these Neanderthal sequences was likely a big part of the reason for their selective benefits".

What's more, different viruses influenced genetic swapping between the two species. Although scientists can not say for sure if the virus exchange took place, they are exploring the viruses that were involved.

The findings show that it is possible to comb through a species' genome and find evidence of ancient diseases that once afflicted it - even when the viruses responsible for those diseases are long gone.

This technique would work especially well for RNA viruses, whose RNA-based genomes are more frail than their DNA counterparts, Enard noted.

"You can think about these hereditary adjustments like impressions from long-wiped out dinosaurs saved in fossilized mud", Enard said. It turned out, common genes give modern man an immune response to HIV, influenza virus A (H1N1) and hepatitis C.it Should be noted that the identified genes are only present in modern Europeans.

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