June 21, 2024

Euro Global Post- Latest News and Analysis | UK News | Business News

European news, UK news, political news, breaking news, lifestyle and entertainment news.

Insights from Ancient DNA: Unravelling Diseases, Height, and Human Evolution

A groundbreaking discovery in ancient teeth and bones may hold the key to understanding the prevalence of diseases in different parts of Europe and the height disparity between northern and southern Europeans. An international team of scientists from the universities of Cambridge, Copenhagen, and Oxford embarked on a decade-long study, investigating the DNA of ancient remains to uncover hidden secrets.

The research focused on multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease where the body’s immune cells attack the brain and spinal cord. Intriguingly, the scientists found that genes protecting ancestors from animal diseases, introduced about 5,000 years ago through a migration of cattle herders known as the Yamnaya, now elevate the risk of MS. This revelation challenges previous notions about the disease’s causes and could influence future treatment approaches.

North-western Europe, including the UK and Scandinavia, exhibits twice as many MS cases per 100,000 people compared to southern Europe. The herding people, Yamnaya, migrated from western Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan, bringing gene variants that were advantageous in protecting against diseases in their livestock. Over time, with modern lifestyles and improved hygiene, these same genetic traits contribute to a higher risk of developing MS.

The research involved extracting genetic information from ancient human remains found in Europe and Western Asia and comparing it with the genes of contemporary UK residents. The study amassed a DNA bank from 5,000 ancient humans, archived in museums globally, aiding future investigations.

Professor Lars Fugger, an MS doctor at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, emphasised that this discovery demystifies MS, clarifying that it’s not caused by mutations but is driven by normal genes aimed at protecting against pathogens. As modern immune systems evolve alongside advancements in vaccinations, antibiotics, and hygiene, susceptibility to autoimmune diseases like MS increases. Balancing treatments to avoid suppressing the immune system excessively, leading to difficulty fighting infections, becomes crucial.

The researchers now plan to explore ancient DNA for insights into the origins of other diseases, such as autism, ADHD, bipolar disorder, and depression. Another aspect uncovered in their research links Yamnaya herders to the taller stature of north-western Europeans compared to their southern counterparts. Additionally, genetic risks for diseases vary across different European regions, showcasing the diverse impact of ancient DNA on contemporary health factors.