Previous research, conducted mainly by geneticists at the Max Planck Institute for Anthropology on people of European descent, revealed the presence of a specific region of ‘chromosome 12’ (chromosome 12) associated with the risk of developing severe forms of Covid-19 infection.
Individuals who carry this segment of DNA, in which there is a unique genetic variant, have a 20 percent lower risk of severe infection than COVID-19“.
This section of DNA also encodes genes in the immune system, and is inherited from Neanderthals in about half of people outside Africa.
However, this area of DNA It is filled with many genetic variants, making it difficult to isolate the exact genetic variant that could be a target for developing more effective treatments against severe Covid-19 infection.
Identification of the genetic variant
Thanks to previous studies, scientists knew that we inherited this genetic variant as a result of crosses that occurred between Homo sapiens and Neanderthals in Europe and Asia, after the ancient migrations from Africa, so there is a hypothesis that “the oldest human groups in Africa did not inherit the genes of Neanderthals.”
This hypothesis was a good starting point for the researchers in the new study. They decided to compare people of European descent with their peers of African descent; If people of African descent possess a genetic variant that protects against corona, its identification will be sufficient to compare the genes on their chromosome 12 with those in the genome of Europeans.
With a bit of luck, the Swedish researchers’ analyzes showed that one of the genetic variants inherited from Neanderthals was also present in the genomes of people of African descent, which made them enjoy an estimated 20 percent reduction in the risk of severe infections with the Corona virus.
The scientists found that this genetic variant produces a protein a little longer than usual, and it seems that this difference in length is precisely the reason for its great effectiveness in limiting the reproduction of corona viruses, and resisting the most deadly types of them.
This mechanism was first discovered last September, by a team of researchers University of GlasgowBut the new study now reaffirms it as a basis for protection against disease in carriers of this unique genetic variant.
The researchers stress the importance of including individuals of different origins in experiments and research, as they say that “studying only one human group, would not have succeeded in identifying the genetic variant.”
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