Genes of Neanderthals associated with POOR SLEEP and OBESITY
Genetics firmly established that about two percent of the DNA of all living people, not from Africa, was transferred from our Neanderthal relatives.
It is difficult to imagine why our first ancestors generally decided to mate with them. In the end, the Neanderthals were a completely different species for us. But given the circumstances, perhaps we should not judge them.
Today, scientists are trying to figure out how and how much of the Neanderthal DNA has been in our bodies and what role it can play in determining how we look and how we feel, and also in our susceptibility to certain diseases.
One of the first features that associate with the Neanderthals, were red hair.
A set of Neanderthal genes responsible for blond hair and skin color was identified by geneticists more than a decade ago and is associated with human survival at high latitudes, poor in the world, like Europe.
Since Neanderthals lived in Europe for several hundred thousand years, it was found that natural selection gave them a light skin and hair color, helping to prevent diseases like rickets.
But as it often happens in science, the situation is much more complicated than one might think. Red hair was not inherited from Neanderthals in general. It turns out they did not even have a gene for this!
Red hair proved to be a unique feature for humans, as shown by a new study conducted by Michael Dannemann and Janet Kelso of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and published in the American Journal of Human Genetics.
It is amazing and paradoxical that half of all the Neanderthal genes in our genome play a role in determining the color of the skin and hair. Nevertheless, a new study shows that the genes of Neanderthals affect these traits no more than the unique human genes that we have.
What does all of this mean? For some time, tens of thousands of years, natural selection provided an excellent balance between the Neanderthal and human genes for these traits.
Now we know that people with fair skin and hair have the best fragments of both genomes by these features.
Among the other genes inherited from Neanderthals, there are those that are associated with how easily people sunbathe and receive sunburn.
And a particularly interesting conclusion from this study was the role that the Neanderthal genes play in the sleep patterns of people determined by the circadian rhythms of the body.
The natural cycles of night and day, which vary widely depending on the latitude and time of the year, greatly affect our circadian rhythms.
Danneman and Kelso looked for a link between the breadth and prevalence of the Neanderthal ASB1 gene, which plays a role in determining whether you are a “night owl” or “lark”, and is associated with the need for daytime sleep and even narcolepsy.
It turned out that the non-African population living far from the equator now shows a higher prevalence of ASB1 than the people living next to it.
Circadian rhythms of humans are clinically important because of the widely known 24-hour changes in the level of glucose, insulin and leptin in the blood, which controls our appetite.
Some of the newly discovered Neanderthal genes have been associated with the growth of adults, as well as with the posture that appears in children after reaching 10 years of age, with pulse and fat distribution in the legs.
Other Neanderthal genes seem to help in determining the mood, for example, when we go out into the sun, or preferences in meat. It is no longer any news that our ancestors mingled with prehistoric people like the Neanderthals.
Their decision to mate with Neanderthals, whatever the reason, continues to resonate after tens of thousands of years. Neanderthal genes play a very important role today, influencing how we look, feel and behave, including determining our predisposition to diseases associated with the western way of life and diet.
Evolutionary history is an amazing thing. It would seem: only a few percent of the genes of modern man has been inherited from another species, and the echoes of this heritage are heard to this day.
Studying them is extremely important for understanding how we struggle with this heritage.
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