Studies suggests that Neanderthal genetics may be responsible for autoimmune diseases in modern humans. Got an ankylosing spondylitis diagnosis? It is almost certainly tied to some weird fetishes on the parts of your ancestors.
HLA Alleles Had to Come from Somewhere
I first came across this concept while watching a documentary called ‘Decoding Neanderthals.’ Yes, I’m one of those people obsessed with documentaries. The focus of the documentary was on the recent decoding of Neanderthal genetic material. In the process, they mentioned having discovered ancient HLA alleles.
The main genetic marker used to diagnose ankylosing spondylitis is the HLA-B27 allele. Found in 95% of all AS sufferers, HLA-B27 is an antigen that helps direct white blood cells. In an ankylosing spondylitis sufferer, the HLA-B27 allele malfunctions. This causes the immune system to attack itself.
Have you ever considered where this allele came from in our genetic code? It’s more interesting than you might think. The answer appears to be that we got it from interbreeding with Neanderthals.
Our Surprising Neanderthal Heritage
Neanderthals were one of the first human-like species to leave the African continent. They diverged from a common ancestor, migrating out of Africa around 600,000 years ago.
Neanderthals adapted to new diseases outside of the African continent. This equipped them with immunities that modern man needed before spreading globally.
And this is where the weird fetish comes in.
Neanderthal genetics are more common in populations of European or Asian descent. The same populations that show a prevalence of ankylosing spondylitis. And it implies that our ancestors were having sex with Neanderthals.
When modern humans began to migrate out of the African continent 30,000 years ago, interbreeding with Neanderthals (and another genetic cousin, Denisovans) was vital to our survival. The immune system boost that our ancestors received inoculated them against new diseases. But that immunity came at a cost, it seems.
Neanderthals and Ankylosing Spondylitis
Neanderthal remains have shown evidence of arthritis. Genetic sequencing shows a predisposition to diseases like psoriasis, Chron’s and lupus. Inheritance of HLA alleles in our ancestors means that Neanderthal interbreeding could be to blame for your ankylosing spondylitis diagnosis.
Now, how does this help you in your everyday battle against this disease? For one thing, it explains why diets cutting out carbohydrates are popular among sufferers. The Paleo Diet, Raw Diet and the No Starch Diet are the most common. It seems no accident that these diets tend to mirror what our ancestors were eating at the time.