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Neanderthal DNA linked to modern maladies

Image: Human and Neanderthal
Researchers say Neanderthal DNA influences modern traits. (Credit: Michael Smeltzer / Vanderbilt)

A comparison of Neanderthal DNA with the genomes of present-day patients has pointed up connections between our now-extinct cousins and modern traits ranging from addiction and depression to blood clotting and skin problems.

“Our main finding is that Neanderthal DNA does influence clinical traits in modern humans,” Vanderbilt University geneticist John Capra, the senior author of a paper published Feb. 11 by the journal Science, said in a news release.

The comparison drew upon a database that links biological samples from 28,000 patients with anonymized versions of their electronic health records. The Electronic Medical Records and Genomics Network, also known as eMERGE, is funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute.

The network collects records from nine hospital systems across the country, including Vanderbilt University Medical Center as well as Group Health Cooperative / University of Washington Medical Center / Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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