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Ancestry to blame for health problems

IF YOU are a hairy diabetic who smokes and suffers from stomach cramps, blame your Neanderthal ancestry.

Remnants of Neanderthal DNA in non-African modern humans are linked to a range of health problems, including Type 2 diabetes, Crohn's disease, lupus and biliary cirrhosis, a study has shown.

They are also associated with smoking behaviour and thick hair, as well as tough skin and nails. Between 2pc and 4pc of the genome, or genetic code map, of Europeans and Asians is believed to be a legacy of interbreeding between ancient Homo sapiens and Neanderthals.

 

EXTINCT

The two were separate human subspecies who co-existed on Earth for thousands of years until the Neanderthals became extinct around 30,000 years ago.

Indigenous people from sub-Saharan Africa, whose ancestors did not migrate out of the continent to breed with Eurasian Neanderthals, carry little or no Neanderthal DNA.

Professor David Reich, from Harvard Medical School in the US, who led the study reported in the journal Nature, said: "Now that we can estimate the probability that a particular genetic variant arose from Neanderthals, we can begin to understand how that inherited DNA affects us."

A parallel study in the journal Science suggests that up to a fifth of the Neanderthal genome may have survived in modern human populations.

hnews@herald.ie


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