People of European and Asian descent share more Neanderthal genes that can determine predisposition to some diseases, eye and hair color and even sensitivity to pain.
Until a decade ago, the idea that Homo Neanderthalensis was a completely different species from Homo sapiens was the rule when talking about human evolution. However, the sequencing of the entire Neanderthal genome in 2010 showed that ties between both species are more intimate of what was believed:
The suspicion that Homo sapiens and Neanderthals are they mated sporadically in the last 40 thousand years, shortly before the disappearance of this hominid, it was more than confirmed after the sequencing of the Neanderthal genome.
Not only that: a deeper investigation into the genome of two Neanderthal specimens found in Spain and Croatia in 2016, showed that mating and successful reproduction between both species occurred on different occasions for more than 100,000 years.
Hence, the current human DNA is composed of between 1.6 and 4% genetic material of Neanderthalsespecially in European and Asian populations. The growing evidence of the crossing of sapiens with Neanderthals is such that the debate to show that it is a human subspecies remains current in paleoanthropology.
The consequences of having Neanderthal genes
Although they are not yet fully known, the consequences of having a higher load of Neanderthal DNA are not minor:
Different studies have confirmed that Neanderthal genetic material makes certain human populations more prone to diseases like lupus or arthritisIn addition, it could play an essential role in hair and eye color (very likely redheaded people have more in common with Neanderthals) and even in sleeping habits or the thickness of the skin.
New research published in the scientific journal Current Biology found that a low tolerance to pain is part of these characteristics.
The study was commissioned to analyze three Neanderthal skeletons with mutations in a gene called SCN9A, responsible for encoding the protein NaV1.7, which controls the way pain signals are transmitted through the nervous system.
Although the opportunities to analyze the Neanderthal genome are few, the three sequenced specimens contain this mutation in the gene SCN9A, leading scientists to assume that it was a common trait in this hominid that was later inherited to humans.
To test this hypothesis, the study authors used information from the UK Biobank, a database with the genome of half a million Britons and found that the people who reported feeling more pain possessed a copy of the Neanderthal gene:
“About 0.4% of participants in the UK Biobank, a genome database of half a million Britons, who reported their pain symptoms had a copy of the mutated gene. Nobody had two, like Neanderthals. Participants with the mutated version of the gene were approximately 7% more likely to report pain in their lives than people without it, ”Nature states in this regard.
While Neanderthals were distributed throughout Europe and Asia, Homo sapiens spread from Africa to the rest of the world. By the time our species expanded through Eurasia, about 45 thousand years ago, the Neanderthal had its days numbered and although there is no scientific consensus on the causes of their extinction, it is probable that both species coincided territorially in Europe and parts of Asia between one and five millennia.
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