HudsonAlpha seminar explores impact of Neanderthal DNA on modern health

Tony Capra, PhD, presented at this week’s HudsonAlpha seminar session. Capra, of Vanderbilt University, explained how geneticists identified evidence that modern humans once interbred with Neanderthals, leaving a lasting impact on the genomes of many people today.

Capra explained that advances in technology allowed for a relatively complete sequencing of two sets of Neanderthal remains. With those pieces of evidence, geneticists could compare modern human genomes to the Neanderthal DNA. Through careful analysis, meticulously ruling out other possibilities, researchers surmise that preserved pieces of Neanderthal DNA in modern humans came from interbreeding.

Researchers then pushed to find if there were physical manifestations of that Neanderthal DNA in modern humans. They have linked specific Neanderthal alleles with significant risk for several disorders, including skin conditions like actinic keratosis and mood disorders like depression. Overall, Capra says tracing the inheritance of Neanderthal DNA and its effects helps reveal patterns in human health and evolution that can be useful in a variety of health research.

This seminar was hosted by Greg Barsh, MD, PhD, and Greg Cooper, PhD.

More information on HudsonAlpha Research Seminars, including the upcoming schedule, can be found at