Saturday April 20, 2019

Neanderthal Genes Helped Early Human Beings to Fight Flu, Hepatitis

The team examined a list of more than 4,500 genes in modern humans that are known to interact in some way with viruses

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Neanderthal
Visitors take pictures of models representing Flores, human and Neanderthal women in the "Musee des Confluences," a new science and anthropology museum in Lyon, central France, Dec. 18, 2014. Neanderthals had a long run in Europe, but disappeared about 40,000 years ago after modern humans showed up. (VOA)

Inter-breeding with Neanderthal gave early human beings the ability to fend off dangerous diseases similar to flu and hepatitis, says a research.

The findings, led by researchers from the Universities of Arizona and Stanford, showed that while Neanderthal became extinct about 40,000 years ago, many modern Europeans and Asians today carry about 2 per cent of Neanderthal DNA in their genomes.

Early humans inherited 152 genes from Neanderthal that helped them fight off modern day HIV, influenza A and hepatitis C whenever they encountered them.

“It’s not a stretch to imagine that when modern humans met up with Neanderthals, they infected each other with pathogens that came from their respective environments,” said lead author David Enard, Assistant Professor in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona.

Neanderthal model
Neanderthal model. Reconstruction of a Neanderthal (Homo neanderthalensis) based on the La Chapelle-aux-Saints fossils. Neanderthals inhabited Europe and western Asia between 230,000 and 29,000 years ago. They did not use complex tools but had mastery of fire and built shelters. It is thought that they had language and a complex social structure, living in small family groups and hunting for food. It is not known why Neanderthals became extinct, but one theory is that they were outcompeted by modern humans (Homo sapiens). Reconstruction by Elisabeth Daynes of the Daynes Studio, Paris, France.

“By inter-breeding with each other, they also passed along genetic adaptations to cope with some of those pathogens,” he added.

According to studies, modern humans began moving out of Africa and into Eurasia about 70,000 years ago.

When they arrived, they met up with Neanderthals who, along with their own ancestors, had been adapting to that geographic area for hundreds of thousands of years.

The Eurasian environment shaped Neanderthals’ evolution, including the development of adaptations to viruses and other pathogens that were present there but not in Africa.

In the study, published in the journal Cell, the team showed that the genetic defences that Neanderthals passed to humans were against RNA viruses, which encode their genes with RNA, a molecule that is chemically similar to DNA.

Neanderthal
Neanderthal man. Flickr

The team examined a list of more than 4,500 genes in modern humans that are known to interact in some way with viruses.

Enard then checked his list against a database of sequenced Neanderthal DNA and identified 152 fragments of those genes from modern humans that were also present in Neanderthals.

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In addition, the findings also demonstrate 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. (IANS)

Next Story

Food Additive in Frozen Meat, Crackers Worsens Flu, Say Researchers

The study will be presented at the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics annual meeting in Orlando

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Tuna
A prospective buyer inspects the quality of a frozen tuna before the first auction of the year at the newly opened Toyosu Market, new site of Tokyo's fish market, in Tokyo, Jan. 5, 2019. VOA

A common food additive found in many products, including frozen meat, crackers and fried foods, could weaken the human immune system against flu, which accounts for 290,000-650,000 deaths globally every year, say researchers.

Besides increasing the severity of flu symptoms, the study found exposure to the compound — tert-butylhydroquinone (tBHQ) — could reduce effectiveness of flu vaccine through its effects on T cells, a vital component of the immune system.

During the study, mice fed tBHQ-spiked diet were slower to activate both helper T cells and killer T cells, causing slower clearance of the virus.

“Our studies showed mice on a tBHQ diet had a weakened immune response to influenza (flu) infection,” said Robert Freeborn, postdoctoral candidate at the Michigan State University.

“In our mouse model, tBHQ suppressed function of helper and killer T cells. It led to more severe symptoms during a subsequent influenza infection,” Freeborn said.

A Food Store. Pixabay

When the mice were re-infected with a different but related strain of influenza, those on the tBHQ diet had a longer illness and lost more weight. This suggests that tBHQ impaired the “memory response” that typically primes the immune system to fight a second infection, Freeborn said.

tBHQ is an additive used to prevent spoilage, with a maximum allowed concentration of 200 parts per million in food products.

Since tBHQ is not always listed on ingredient labels, the best way to limit tBHQ exposure is to be conscious about food choices. A low-fat diet and less consumption of processed snacks will help reduce tBHQ consumption, he suggested.

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Annual flu shot significantly reduces the length and severity of the illness and prevents influenza infection.

The study will be presented at the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics annual meeting in Orlando. (IANS)