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Human-Neanderthal fertility gene discovered in recent study. Source: Dimid / Adobe Stock.

Neanderthal Gene Makes Women More Fertile

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Are you in the “one in three” group of European women with the special Neanderthal gene required for fewer pregnancy issues?

The revelatory new DNA study by researchers at the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft Institute was published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution and it says a third of European women have inherited the receptor for progesterone from Neanderthals and that having it “increases fertility and reduces the risk of miscarriage in early pregnancy”.

Like It Or Not, You Are A Neanderthal-Human Hybrid

A team from the Karolinska Institute (medical university) in Sweden analyzed biobank DNA data on over 450,000 European women, and looking closely at their fertility histories, the researchers identified the inherited gene which they say “29% carry one copy of the Neanderthal receptor and 3% have two copies of the gene that can also lead to fewer bleedings during pregnancy”. What’s more, the paper says that the one third of women with the specific Neanderthal gene are also likely to have more children over their lifetime.

Those with the Neanderthal gene are likely to have more children. (Jaroslav A. Polák / Public Domain)

According to Science Daily Neanderthal-derived DNA lives in the genomes of all modern people and that it makes up between 1 and 4% of modern genomes and earlier studies have discovered that the average European carries more than 500 genetic 'fragments' from Neanderthals, and other archaic human species. Finding these genes in modern people can only have resulted from interbreeding between modern humans and Neanderthals populations about 65,000 years ago and Hugo Zeberg from the Karolinska Institute said the progesterone receptor is an example of how “favorable genetic variants that were introduced into modern humans by mixing with Neanderthals can have effects in people living today”.

Thank Neanderthals For “Favorable Effects On Fertility”

Neanderthals are an extinct species, or subspecies, of archaic humans who populated Eurasia until about 40,000 years ago. Controversy surrounds the species extinction and it is argued as to whether this occurred due to competition with, or extermination by, expanding tribes of modern humans, or if it was due to great climatic changes, widespread diseases, or perhaps a combination of these two factors.

The cause of the extinction of Neanderthals is still under debate. (Jaroslav A. Polák / Public Domain)

The cause of the extinction of Neanderthals is still under debate. (Jaroslav A. Polák / Public Domain)

Before any conclusions were drawn the team of geneticists had to assemble and interpret vast amounts of DNA information pertaining to genomes that had been sequenced (read) from ancient humans that had been discovered in caves and bogs, the oldest of which was discovered in China dating to 40,000 years ago. These genome samples were mapped through time all the way up to modern humans which effectively tracked the spread of the Neanderthal genes over 40,000 thousand years.

In the molecular analyses of women with the Neanderthal gene it was discovered that on average they produced more progesterone receptors in their cells which the authors say may lead to “increased sensitivity to progesterone and protection against early miscarriages and bleeding”. In a Daily Mail article Hugo Zeberg said the proportion of women who inherited this gene is about 10 times greater than for most Neanderthal gene variants and that his team’s findings suggest that the Neanderthal variant of the receptor has a “favorable effect on fertility”.

The Neanderthal gene increases fertility in today’s human women. (kai Stachowiak / Public Domain)

The Neanderthal gene increases fertility in today’s human women. (kai Stachowiak / Public Domain)

Every Story Has A Flip Side…

Someone out there reading this article just thought: wtf is it with all this chat of gene receptors, DNA sequencing and even Max Plank, just tell me what all this mean in layman’s terms, or maybe it was just me? The bottom line is women who have the Neanderthal progesterone receptor maintain pregnancies that may have resulted in a miscarriage, more than those women without it.

Now, not every cloud has a silver lining, so if you are a woman worrying whether you have this gene or not, you can relax, for if you do have it while you stand less chance of suffering excessive bleeding and/or miscarriage during pregnancy, you are at an “increased” risk of early pre-term birthing. Furthermore, the new study also identified a range of genes which the scientists explained are associated with “prostate cancer, iron retention, blood clotting speed”.

Top image: Human-Neanderthal fertility gene discovered in recent study. Source: Dimid / Adobe Stock.

By Ashley Cowie

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Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

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