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DNA analysis: Diseases altered ancient humans' appearances

DNA analysis: Diseases altered ancient humans' appearances

Modern humans do not resemble ancient humans and some researchers attribute this evolution to the diseases that caused gene alterations which got passed on the future generations.

Some scientists from the Hebrew University reconstructed the DNA maps of the ancient humans - Denisovans and Neanderthals. They found that the diseases these ancient humans suffered from caused DNY methylation, a process in which a methyl group gets attached with a DNA.

This biochemical process is responsible for alteration in their genes, especially those that affect the appearance. The altered genetic information is passed on to future generations, resulting in variation in their appearance.

The lead researcher Liran Carmel stated that around 35 percent of the DNA alterations were related to the brain and bone structure. However, she wasn't sure about the question about the role of DNA methylation in diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, autism, and schizophrenia.

She said, "We see associations with diseases like schizophrenia, autism and Alzheimer's. Could it be that recent changes in the activity of genes in our brain also led to psychiatric disorders?"

An article detailing the study appeared in the April 17 issue of Science.