The genomes of ancient humans, Neandertals, and Denisovans contain many alleles that influence disease risks. Using genotypes at 3,180 disease-associated loci, we estimated the disease burden of 147 ancient genomes. After correcting for missing data, genetic risk scores (GRS) were generated for nine disease categories and the set of all combined diseases. We used these genetic risk scores to examine the effects of different types of subsistence, geography, and sample age on the number of risk alleles in each ancient genome. On a broad scale, hereditary disease risks are similar for ancient hominins and modern-day humans, and the GRS percentiles of ancient individuals span the full range of what is observed in present-day individuals. In addition, there is evidence that ancient pastoralists may have had healthier genomes than hunter-gatherers and agriculturalists. We also observed a temporal trend whereby genomes from the recent past are more likely to be healthier than genomes from the deep past. This calls into question the idea that modern lifestyles have caused genetic load to increase over time. Focusing on individual genomes, we found that the overall genomic health of the Altai Neandertal is worse than 97% of present-day humans and that Ötzi, the Tyrolean Iceman, had a genetic predisposition for gastrointestinal and cardiovascular diseases. As demonstrated by this work, ancient genomes afford us new opportunities to diagnose past human health, which has previously been limited by the quality and completeness of remains.
Berens, Ali J.; Cooper, Taylor L.; and Lachance, Joseph
"The genomic health of ancient hominins,"
1, Article 2.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/humbiol/vol89/iss1/2