10/22/2021

The Ancient Neanderthal Traces Hidden In Your Genome

11:58 minutes

a fossilized skull on a black background
A neanderthal skull. Credit: Shutterstock

Just how much of your genome is uniquely human? It turns out the number of genetic components in the human genome that trace back only to modern humans, and not to other human lineages or ancient ancestors, are surprisingly small. In a paper published recently in the journal Science Advances, researchers estimate the uniquely human portion of the genome as being under two percent. 

Many of the genes thought to be strictly connected to modern humans appear to relate to neural processes. However, traces of genes from Denisovans and Neanderthals can be found scattered throughout the genome—including strong Neanderthal genetic signals in parts of the genome dealing with the immune system.

Ed Green, a professor of biomolecular engineering at the University of California Santa Cruz and one of the authors of that paper, joins SciFri’s Charles Bergquist to talk about the study, and what can be learned by this approach to studying our genetic code.


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Segment Guests

Richard “Ed” Green

Ed Green is a professor of biomolecular engineering at the University of California Santa Cruz.

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The transcript for this segment is being processed. It will be posted within one week after the episode airs.

Meet the Producer

About Charles Bergquist

As Science Friday’s director, Charles Bergquist channels the chaos of a live production studio into something sounding like a radio program. Favorite topics include planetary sciences, chemistry, materials, and shiny things with blinking lights.

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