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The Viking disease can be due to gene variants inherited from Neanderthals

By: April Carson



A connection has been found by researchers between the genetic material of Neanderthals and a health condition that affects modern humans known as Dupuytren's disease. This disorder causes some fingers of an individual to bend at an angle permanently and is also termed Viking's disease.


Studies have revealed that the genetic variant responsible for Dupuytren's disease is traced back to Neanderthals. This variant seems to be a result of inbreeding between humans and Neanderthals, which occurred around 45,000 years ago.


It is likely that Neanderthals who lived 40,000 to 50,000 years ago had a medical condition. This vulnerability was passed on to humans who lived with them in Northern Europe through genetic mixing. The genetic variant exists in about 8-10% of Europeans, but the prevalence is higher among those from Northern Europe.


The disease is commonly known as the Viking disease due to its prevalence among individuals of northern European ancestry. This condition affects men more frequently than women. It typically starts as a lump in the hand's palm and progresses to cause one or more fingers to bend and lock in position. Although not typically painful, the nodules may occasionally be tender to the touch.


A recent paper published in Molecular Biology and Evolution reveals that Dupuytren's disease is more prevalent in individuals of Northern European origin compared to those whose ancestors came from Africa. The disease is so commonly found among the descendants of ancient Viking warriors, who ruled Scandinavia, that it is also referred to as "Viking disease".


The finding offers an interesting insight into the history of health and genetic inheritance in human populations. It also shows how ancient biological events can still affect modern humans, even if they occurred thousands of years ago. More research is needed to identify additional Neanderthal-derived genes that make people susceptible to certain diseases.


A study showed that approximately 30 percent of Norwegians who are 60 years old and above have experienced symptoms of Dupuytren’s disease, typically in their middle and/or ring fingers. According to the lead author of the paper, evolutionary geneticist Hugo Zeberg from the Karolinska Institute in Solna, Sweden, the meeting with Neanderthals has influenced the individuals who experience illness in this particular case. However, Zeberg cautioned against exaggerating the link between Vikings and Neanderthals. "It's not like they've inherited a Viking spirit or anything like that," he said.


A study showed that approximately 30 percent of Norwegians who are 60 years old and above have experienced symptoms of Dupuytren’s disease, typically in their middle and/or ring fingers. According to the lead author of the paper, evolutionary geneticist Hugo Zeberg from the Karolinska Institute in Solna, Sweden, the meeting with Neanderthals has influenced the individuals who experience illness in this particular case. However, Zeberg cautioned against exaggerating the link between Vikings and Neanderthals. "It's not like they've inherited a Viking spirit or anything like that," he said.


The Evolution of Viking's Disease: From the Past to the Present


Between 42,000 and 65,000 years ago, much of the interbreeding between Neanderthals and modern humans happened in Europe. Neanderthals were only found in Eurasia, so African populations lived separately and have only small amounts of Neanderthal DNA today.


Recent research has revealed that the genetic variant responsible for dragging fingers in Dupuytren's disease is related to Neanderthal DNA. It is thought that this variant was passed on from Neanderthals to modern humans during interbreeding and has persisted in some populations until now.


A study conducted in Denmark in 1999 found that the main factor that contributes to the development of Dupuytren's disease is heredity, with a heritability factor estimated at 80%. Although additional risk factors have been identified such as age, diabetes, and alcohol use, having a genetic predisposition is always necessary for the development of this disease.


In simpler terms, the presence of Neanderthal DNA that merged with human genes is responsible for causing Dupuytren's disease. The higher occurrence of this disease among people from Northern Europe caught the attention of the researchers and influenced their investigation into its genetic roots.


The results of this research provide us with a better understanding of how human genetics have evolved over time and the ways in which ancient events can still affect modern humans. It is also an insight into our medical history and how the genetic heritage of our ancestors can influence the health of today's population.












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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com


To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav


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