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Genes from Neanderthals can affect the correct drug dosage

A fifth of all Europeans carry gene variants inherited from Neanderthals, which cause certain drugs to break down more slowly. This may have implications for the drug doses they should take.

It is already a well-known fact that certain gene variants affect the efficiency of certain enzymes that eliminate drugs. In a study led by researchers Hugo Zeberg and Svante Pääbo at the Karolinska Institute and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, two such enzymatic variants have been studied and found to be inherited from Neanderthals.

The enzymes are essential for breaking down certain common drugs, such as blood-thinning warfarin, anti-epileptic phenytoin, cholesterol-lowering statins and painkillers such as ibuprofen, according to a press release from the Karolinska Institute.

The Neanderthal variants of the enzymes may be up to 70% less efficient at eliminating drugs.

“When you would normally take two tablets, you might need to take only one if you have this Neanderthal variant. If your body doesn’t break it down, you will get too high a dose,” says Hugo Zeberg to Vetenskapsradion.

The “The clinically relevant CYP2C8*3 and CYP2C9*2 haplotype is inherited from Neandertals” study has been published in The Pharmacogenomics Journal.

Facts: Neanderthals

The Neanderthals were a group of archaic people who populated Europe and Asia before the arrival of modern humans. When modern humans and Neanderthals met 60,000 years ago, they mixed. As a result, people with roots outside of Africa have 1 or 2% of Neanderthal DNA in their genome.

Source: The Karolinska Institute

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