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Extinct human DNA explains why some people are more sensitive to pain

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However, follow-ups experiments using from the 1,000 Genomes Project suggest that 10 percent of East Asians may also have that Neanderthal derived gene, and about 40 percent of “some populations” in Central and South America may have it too, Zeberg says.

Between 40,000 and 60,000 years ago, humans and Neanderthals got cozy before the later faded from existence.

We probably didn’t feel their pain then, but about 0.4 percent of Britons probably feel it now, thanks to a genetic gift from those the extinct hominids.

A gene variant that can be traced all the way back to Neanderthals, but is still present in about 0.4 percent of modern humans in Britain, may make pain feel even sharper. Out of the 362,944 British citizens in the study, those who had that Neanderthal-derived gene were 7 percent more likely to report at least one pain symptom, compared to those who didn’t have the gene.

The authors suggest that translates to feeling the pain typical of someone 8.5 years their senior. Age was correlated with more experiences of pain in the study population.

is the study’s first author and a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and The Karolinska Institutet. He tells Inverse that the gene isn’t terribly common in Europe –only one percent of Europeans likely have it. Zeberg and his team reached that conclusion by using data collected by the UK Biobank .

However, follow-ups experiments using from the 1,000 Genomes Project suggest that 10 percent of East Asians may also have that Neanderthal derived gene, and about 40 percent of “some populations” in Central and South America may have it too, Zeberg says.

Those modern-day humans may be feeling pain in a similar manner to a species that died of tens of thousands of years ago because that gene causes small tweaks to the way the cell sends a pain signal.

The was published Thursday in Current Biology.

Feeling Neanderthal pain – The gene that Zeberg and his colleagues focused on is called SCN9A. It codes for an ion channel that allows sodium ions (positively charged atoms) to flow in and out of nerve cells in peripheral areas of the body. As the charges inside the cell change, that triggers a signal that tells the brain something is amiss.

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