Neanderthal genes may have made modern-day humans prone to allergies

Prone to the sneezes of seasonal allergies? Beset by watery eyes of hay fever? Blame your Neanderthal genetics.

New research has found that many of us have leftover Neanderthal genes in our DNA that predispose us to allergies.

See Full Article

Two studies published Thursday in the American Journal of Human Genetics looked at what happened to our immune systems when our early Homo sapiens ancestors left Africa and began breeding with Neanderthals in Europe and Asia 50,000 years ago.

The researchers found that the DNA of the two species combined, leaving Homo sapiens with gene variations that increased our ability to ward off many infections. But inheriting these Neanderthal genes may have also left many of us more prone to allergies.

Studies have shown that around one to six per cent of modern Eurasian genomes were inherited from two ancient extinct human species: Neanderthals and Denisovans.

This new research found that the interbreeding affected the genes on some key proteins in our immune systems, called toll-like receptor or TLR genes. These immune receptors help to activate our immune response and elicit inflammatory and anti-microbial reactions.

The research comes from teams at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and the Pasteur Institute. Although they didn’t work together, both teams decided to search through human DNA collected by the 1,000 Genomes Project looking for genetic remnants of Neanderthals and Denisovans.

They were hoping to explore the evolution of a part of our immune system known as the “innate immune system.” (The innate immune system responds to pathogens in a generic way, as opposed to our adaptive or acquired immune system, which is made up of cells that have “learned” to react to particular invaders.)

Both teams identified three genes from the two extinct hominin groups that they say would have helped early Homo sapiens to survive the diseases they encountered as they moved across Europe and Asia, where Neanderthals had been living for millennia.

"Neanderthals… had lived in Europe and Western Asia for around 200,000 years before the arrival of modern humans,” senior author Janet Kelso said in a statement.

“They were likely well adapted to the local climate, foods, and pathogens. By interbreeding with these archaic humans, we modern humans gained these advantageous adaptations."

But at the same time, it seems these genetic changes also made the immune systems of some of us more prone to overreact to certain allergens, such as pollen, thus making us susceptible to environmental allergies.



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • New technology helps legally-blind boy see Jets game

    Tech & Science CTV News
    A pair of high-tech glasses enabled a 10-year-old boy from Manitoba to see his first Winnipeg Jets game Saturday. Benjamyn Francey is legally-blind due to a rare eye condition called Leber's congenital amaurosis. This condition means Francey can only see colours and silhouettes. Source
  • 'Few examples of concrete action:' Study says Nunavut climate adaptation slow

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Programs to help people adapt to climate change in a part of Canada where help may be needed the most are stuck in the ice, a study has concluded. For more than a decade Inuit in Nunavut have been saying that the old ways for building, travel and hunting on the land no longer apply. Source
  • How coffee grounds turned firewood could be a lifeline for refugees

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The remnants of your morning cup of coffee could be a lifeline for refugees living in camps in sub-saharan Africa. A group of University of Toronto students have created Moto, an alternative to firewood that uses recycled coffee grounds. Source
  • California scientist names moth species after Donald Trump

    Tech & Science CTV News
    SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A scientist in California has named a newly discovered moth species after President-elect Donald Trump, saying the white and yellow scales on the insect's head are reminiscent of Trump's blond hairdo. The moth was named Neopalpa donadltrumpi by evolutionary biologist Dr. Source
  • Canadian scientist names moth species after Donald Trump

    Tech & Science CTV News
    SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A scientist in California has named a newly discovered moth species after President-elect Donald Trump, saying the white and yellow scales on the insect's head are reminiscent of Trump's blond hairdo. The moth was named Neopalpa donadltrumpi by Canadian evolutionary biologist Dr. Source
  • New species of prehistoric palm discovered in Canada

    Tech & Science CBC News
    A researcher identified a new species of small palm that once grew in Canada after examining a fossil that had been part of an Alberta museum collection for decades. Palms are typically associated with warm, tropical climates. Source
  • Trump administration's energy policy aims to revive America's coal industry

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Less than an hour after the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump, the new administration outlined on the White House website its energy policy, which aims to focus on gas and oil, and reviving the coal industry. Source
  • Less than hour after inauguration, Trump publishes energy policy to revive coal industry

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Less than an hour after the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump, the new administration outlined on the White House website its energy policy, which aims to focus on gas and oil, and reviving the coal industry. Source
  • Science 'Trumped' by belief: Bob McDonald

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Donald Trump has stated clearly that he believes climate change is a hoax and that vaccines cause autism, two topics that have been clearly proven by science to be untrue. Now, he has a team of players that are carrying these beliefs to other levels of government. Source
  • Trump makes cyberwarfare an official priority for new White House

    Tech & Science CBC News
    U.S. President Donald Trump will make cyberwarfare a "priority" in the fight against ISIS and other terrorist organizations, the new administration revealed on Friday. The White House website was updated shortly after President Trump's inauguration — offering little insight into the government's plans, but the clearest official indication yet that the government is actively engaged in digital attacks. Source