Israeli scientists made a major breakthrough as they discovered genetic switches that caused differences between extinct neanderthals and modern humans. Israeli scientist published the research in an online edition of the prestigious journal and said “Science may explain what separates modern man, or Homo sapiens, from Neanderthals”. Human and their extinct Neanderthal cousins different in mind and body were found to be 99.84 similar genetically.
Four years after scientists discovered that the two species’s genomes differ by a fraction of a percent, geneticists said on Thursday they have an explanation: the cellular equivalent of “on/off” switches that determine whether DNA is activated or not. Many genetic switches are turned on in humans that are switched off in neanderthals and vice-versa, study revealed. “People are fundamentally interested in what makes us human, in what makes us different from Neanderthals,”said Sarah Tishkoff, an expert in human evolution at the University of Pennsylvania, who was not involved in the new study. Discovering the differences in gene activation is “an amazing technical feat,” she said.
Study also revealed why humans have neurological and psychiatric disorders including autism and schizophrenia but our ancestor Neanderthals did not. In an interview, Carmel said “any given gene might “do many things in the brain.When dozens of brain-related genes became more active in today’s humans, that somehow produces the harmful side effect of neurological illness”. Scientists mapped neanderthal’s and human’s epigenome and found that more than 99 percent of the maps matched.
HOXD, a cluster of five genes which influences size and shape of limbs was found absent in the ancient species. Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London said in an interview that the HOXD gene finding “may help to explain how these ancient humans were able to build stronger bodies, better adapted to the physical rigors of Stone Age life.