Saturday February 16, 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

Flu Could Put You At A High Risk Of Stroke

The reason could be due to inflammation caused by the flu infection.

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In another study, the team from the varsity, found an increased risk of a neck artery tear after having the flu. VOA

Catching flu could put you at increased risk of stroke for up to a year, finds a new study.

Although the researchers are not sure the reason behind the association, the reason could be due to inflammation caused by the flu infection.

The finding adds to previous research which has suggested the flu vaccine can reduce your risk of a stroke.

For the study, the researchers from Columbia University in the US looked at the medical records of 30,912 people with an average age of 72 years who had been admitted to hospital after suffering a stroke.

The findings, which would be presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2019 in the US, showed that people had a 40 per cent higher chance of having a stroke if they had been admitted to hospital with flu-like symptoms within the past 15 days.

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For the study, the researchers from Columbia University in the US looked at the medical records of 30,912 people with an average age of 72 years who had been admitted to hospital after suffering a stroke.

“The association occurred within 15 days. That’s important for people to know because if they get the flu, they want to be on the lookout for symptoms of stroke, especially early on after the flu,” Philip B Gorelick, Professor at the Michigan State University in the US was quoted as saying by Daily Mail.

In another study, the team from the varsity, found an increased risk of a neck artery tear after having the flu.

Neck artery tears, formally called a cervical artery dissection, happens when one of the large blood vessels in the neck is damaged, causing blood clots to develop.

It is a leading cause of stroke because it affects the blood supply to the brain, reported Daily Mail.

Vaccine
Influenza leads to serious and potentially life-threatening complications such as pneumonia, sepsis and heart disease, the study noted. VOA

The study, which will be presented at the same conference, found 1,736 instances of flu-like illness preceding cervical artery dissection.

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“Cervical or neck dissections make up about two per cent of all strokes and up to 25 per cent of strokes in persons who are under 45 years of age. So this is specifically important to people who are in that under 45 age group, but not exclusively,” said Gorelick.

Influenza leads to serious and potentially life-threatening complications such as pneumonia, sepsis and heart disease, the study noted. (IANS)