Lingering Effects of Neanderthal DNA Found in Modern Humans

Recent scientific discoveries have shown that Neanderthal genes comprise some 1 to 4% of the genome of present-day humans whose ancestors migrated out of Africa, but the question had remained open on how much those genes are still actively influencing human traits--until now. A multi-institution research team including Cornell University has developed a new suite of computational genetic tools to address the genetic effects of interbreeding between humans of non-African ancestry and Neanderthals that took place some 50,000 years ago. (The study applies only to descendants of those who migrated from Africa before Neanderthals died out, and in particular, those of European ancestry.) In a study published in eLife, the researchers reported that some Neanderthal genes are responsible for certain traits in modern humans, including several with a significant influence on the immune system. Overall, however, the study shows that modern human genes are winning out over successive generations. The open-access eLife article is titled “The Lingering Effects of Neanderthal Introgression on Human Complex Traits.”

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