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Gene that protected humans 5,000 years ago may be linked to debilitating modern disease

·1 min

Scientists have compiled the largest database of ancient DNA based on the bones and teeth of almost 5,000 humans who lived across Western Europe and parts of Central Asia from 34,000 years ago until medieval times. Analysis of this database suggests genes that may have once protected prehistoric humans from harmful pathogens may today increase the risk of neurodegenerative diseases in Europeans. The five-year project combined previously known ancient genomes with freshly sequenced DNA to create the world’s largest ancient gene bank. By comparing ancient DNA with modern-day samples, researchers gained new biological understanding of debilitating disorders and physical traits. The initial results were published in a scientific journal. The database allows for the exploration of the genetic origins of diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s, as well as the evolutionary history of traits such as height and lactose tolerance. This research provides insights into the impact of population history on the risk of autoimmune diseases. The database is considered the most comprehensive understanding of a region’s genetic history to date. However, it is important to note that the genetic effects on traits and diseases are also influenced by environmental factors.