According to the summary, “By altering the NOVA1 gene, researchers were able to “Neanderthal-izes” a brain organoid model. Study reveals there is only a one gene difference between the modern human brain and that of our extinct ancestors.”
In a study published February 11, 2021 in Science, Muotri’s team catalogued the differences between the genomes of diverse modern human populations and the Neanderthals and Denisovans, who lived during the Pleistocene Epoch, approximately 2.6 million to 11,700 years ago. Mimicking an alteration they found in one gene, the researchers used stem cells to engineer “Neanderthal-ized” brain organoids.
“It’s fascinating to see that a single base-pair alteration in human DNA can change how the brain is wired,” said Muotri, senior author of the study and director of the UC San Diego Stem Cell Program and a member of the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine. “We don’t know exactly how and when in our evolutionary history that change occurred. But it seems to be significant, and could help explain some of our modern capabilities in social behavior, language, adaptation, creativity and use of technology.”
The team initially found 61 genes that differed between modern humans and our extinct relatives. One of these altered genes — NOVA1 — caught Muotri’s attention because it’s a master gene regulator, influencing many other genes during early brain development. The researchers used CRISPR gene editing to engineer modern human stem cells with the Neanderthal-like mutation in NOVA1. Then they coaxed the stem cells into forming brain cells and ultimately Neanderthal-ized brain organoids …
The Neanderthal-ized brain organoids looked very different than modern human brain organoids, even to the naked eye. They had a distinctly different shape. Peering deeper, the team found that modern and Neanderthal-ized brain organoids also differ in the way their cells proliferate and how their synapses — the connections between neurons — form. Even the proteins involved in synapses differed. And electrical impulses displayed higher activity at earlier stages, but didn’t synchronize in networks in Neanderthal-ized brain organoids.
According to Muotri, the neural network changes in Neanderthal-ized brain organoids parallel the way newborn non-human primates acquire new abilities more rapidly than human newborns.University of California, San Diego, “How a Single Gene Alteration May Have Separated Modern Humans From Predecessors” at Neuroscience News
But wait. Have we established that Neanderthal man was to modern humans as “non-human primates” are? The more we learn about Neanderthal man, the less of a dullard he seems.
Let’s keep an eye on this file and see what happens later.
See also: Neanderthal Man: The long-lost relative turns up again, this time with documents
A deep and abiding need for Neanderthals to be stupid. Why?
The paper is closed access.