Asthma, hay fever, and other allergies are partly due to our genetic heritage, a legacy from our parents and ancestors. According to two studies, our allergies are partly a heritage that goes back to Neanderthal man.
In the American Journal of Human Genetics, two studies reveal that our allergies are a genetic heritage that goes back to Neanderthal man, i.e., about 40,000 years ago. In addition, prehistoric mating between Neanderthals and Denisovans, extinct cousins of modern humans, means that modern humans have inherited 1-6% of genes from ancient hominids.
When these groups left Africa to come to Europe, the genes in question were transmitted to modern humans when they had sexual relations with groups already established in Eurasia.
The good thing about this genetic inheritance is that it plays a key role in our immune system. “Our study shows that interbreeding with archaic humans had practical implications for modern humans, the most obvious of which was our adaptation to the environment by improving our resistance to pathogens and our metabolism to digest new foods,” says Janet Kelso of the Max Planck Institute (Germany), lead author of one of the two studies. “Neanderthals had lived in Europe and western Asia for 200,000 years before modern humans arrived.
They were probably well adapted to climate, diet, and pathogens, and by mating with them, we modern humans inherited these advantageous adaptations.”
But not everything is positive either. This genetic inheritance is also the source of an over-sensitive immune system. As a result, people with these genes are more likely to have problems with asthma, hay fever, and other allergies.
It should be noted that these studies also reveal that almost the entire world population has a Neanderthal immune system gene; another Neanderthal gene is primarily found in Asians, while a Denisovian gene is located in a small group of Asians. By scanning the genomes of modern humans, the researchers arrived at these conclusions.
So there you have it! Our allergies are a genetic heritage traced back to Neanderthal man. While this might not be the most pleasant news, knowing where our allergies come from is interesting. In addition, this information will help us to understand better and manage our allergies.