Study Reveals Stunning Link Between Autism and Neanderthal DNA in Humans

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A fascinating new study has revealed a surprising possible source for the presence of autism in the human population. Performing a careful analysis of human genetic variations that have been linked to interbreeding with Neanderthals, researchers have found evidence to suggest that our long-extinct Neanderthal cousins may have given us DNA that contributes somehow to the development of autism.

The DNA in question has also been connected to other troublesome traits in humans, including language delay and repression and various types of intellectual disabilities.

In an article just published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, a team of scientists from Clemson University in South Carolina and Loyola University in New Orleans explain how they were able to discover this unexpected genetic connection between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens, or modern humans. The data they obtained showing the sharing of autism-related genes emerged from a study of Neanderthal DNA in three ethnic populations: African-Americans, white Hispanic Americans, and non-Hispanic white Americans.

“This is the first study to provide strong evidence for the active role of a subset of rare, as well as some common, Neanderthal-derived alleles in autism susceptibility in multiple major American populations,” the study authors wrote, noting the historical significance of their results. As of now there is no specifically identified cause for autism, which means any research that sheds light on its origins can be considered groundbreaking.

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