Genes analyzed by 450,000 people
For the current study, the experts analyzed the biobank data of more than 450,000 people – including 244,000 women. The result: Almost every third woman in Europe has inherited the progesterone receptor from Neanderthals. This variant of the receptor has a beneficial effect on fertility, explains Hugo Zeberg, one of the authors of the study.
And also during pregnancy, the Neanderthal variant of the receptor has positive effects: women get less bleeding at the beginning and have fewer miscarriages.
Neanderthal genes affect today’s people
The reason for this seems to be that in women with this gene variant, the sensitivity in the cells to progesterone is increased. The hormone, in turn, plays an important role in the menstrual cycle and in pregnancy – and in the end can also protect against early pregnancies and bleeding.
The progesterone receptor is an example of how inexpensive genetic variants that have been transferred to modern humans through the mixing with Neanderthals can have an impact on people living today.