If you have diabetes, you may have a Neanderthal to thank/blame, according to recent genome studies.
Science and Nature today published independent studies of Neanderthal DNA, both of which shed some light on how non-African human DNA might have been influenced by interbreeding with Neanderthals tens of thousands of years ago (Africans did not, as far as we know, breed with Neanderthals).
The studies compared the genomes of hundreds of Europeans and Asians to those found in a Neanderthal toe bone. Of the one to four percent of non-African genetic makeup that is believed to come from Neanderthals, scientists found large amounts of Neanderthal DNA in skin and hair genes, suggesting that they influenced lighter skin colors and tougher, thicker hair and skin which would have been better suited for living in cooler, darker Eurasia.
They also found genes associated with certain diseases came from Neanderthals, including type 2 diabetes, depression and the autoimmune disorders lupus, billiary cirrhosis and Crohn's disease.
We still don't know exactly how those genes come into play, but the diabetes finding is consistent with a study published in December that found a gene that increased the risk of diabetes in Latin Americans came from Neanderthals.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.