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Why is Neanderthal Genetic material Found in only Small amount in Genomes of Modern Humans?

The scientists estimated that these gene variations were able to persist in Neanderthals because Neanderthals had a much smaller population size than humans

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FILE - A model of an adult Neanderthal male head and shoulders by artist John Gurche on display in the Hall of Human Origins in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. VOA

New York, November 9, 2016: Neanderthal genetic material is found in only small amount in the genomes of modern humans because, after inter-breeding, natural selection removed large numbers of weakly deleterious Neanderthal gene variants, says a study.

Humans and Neanderthals inter-bred tens of thousands of years ago, but today, Neanderthal DNA makes up only one to four per cent of the genomes of modern non-African people.

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“For a while now we have known that humans and Neanderthals hybridised. Many Europeans and Asians – along with other non-African populations – are the descendants of those hybrids,” said Ivan Juric from the University of California, Davis in the US.

“Previous work has also shown that, following hybridisation, many Neanderthal gene variants were lost from the modern human population due to selection. We wanted to better understand the causes of this loss,” Juric noted.

To understand how modern humans lost their Neanderthal genetic material and how humans and Neanderthals remained distinct, the researchers developed a novel method for estimating the average strength of natural selection against Neanderthal genetic material.

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They found that natural selection removed many Neanderthal alleles from the genome that might have had mildly negative effects.

The scientists estimated that these gene variations were able to persist in Neanderthals because Neanderthals had a much smaller population size than humans.

Once transferred into the human genome, however, these alleles became subject to natural selection, which was more effective in the larger human populations and has removed these gene variants over time.

“Our results are compatible with a scenario where the Neanderthal genome accumulated many weakly deleterious variants, because selection was not effective in the small Neanderthal populations. Those variants entered the human population after hybridisation,” Juric said.

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“Once in the larger human population, those deleterious variants were slowly purged by natural selection,” Juric noted.

These findings, published in the journal PLOS Genetics, shed new light on the role of population size on losing or maintaining Neanderthal ancestry in humans. (IANS)

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Novel Device by Microsoft Can Store Digital Info as DNA

Further, the team also developed techniques to search for and retrieve only images that contain an apple or a green bicycle — using the molecules themselves and without having to convert the files back into a digital format

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A man walks past a Microsoft sign set up for the Microsoft BUILD conference at Moscone Center in San Francisco, April 28, 2015. VOA

Tech major Microsoft has successfully developed an end-to-end automated DNA storage device that can translate digital information into DNA and back to bits, the company said in a blog post.

The fully automated system to store and retrieve data in manufactured DNA is a key step in moving the technology out of the research lab and into commercial datacenters.

The novel system, developed in partnership with University of Washington, translated “HELLO” into DNA and converted it back to digital data in just 21 hours, reported the paper published in Nature Scientific Reports journal.

“Our ultimate goal is to put a system into production that, to the end user, looks very much like any other cloud storage service — bits are sent to a datacenter and stored there and then they just appear when the customer wants them,” Karin Strauss, principal researcher at Microsoft, wrote in the post on Thursday.

“To do that, we needed to prove that this is practical from an automation perspective,” Strauss added.

The system has so far stored one gigabyte of data in DNA, which includes cat photographs, great literary works, pop videos as well as archival recordings in DNA, which could be retrieved without errors, the researchers said.

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FILE – Microsoft Corp. signage is seen outside the Microsoft Visitor Center in Redmond, Washington, July 3, 2014. VOA

The automated DNA data storage system uses software that converts the ones and zeros of digital data into the As, Ts, Cs and Gs that make up the building blocks of DNA.

Then it uses cheap lab equipments to flow the necessary liquids and chemicals into a synthesiser that builds manufactured snippets of DNA and to push them into a storage vessel.

When the system needs to retrieve the information, it adds other chemicals to properly prepare the DNA and uses microfluidic pumps to push the liquids into other parts of the system that “read” the DNA sequences and convert it back to information that a computer can understand.

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Information is stored in synthetic DNA molecules created in a lab, not DNA from humans or other living things, and can be encrypted before it is sent to the system.

Further, the team also developed techniques to search for and retrieve only images that contain an apple or a green bicycle — using the molecules themselves and without having to convert the files back into a digital format.

“We are definitely seeing a new kind of computer system being born here where you are using molecules to store data and electronics for control and processing. Putting them together holds some really interesting possibilities for the future,” said Luis Ceze, Professor at the varsity. (IANS)