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Neanderthal DNA may offer insight into what makes us human

 

Narrator:          This is Science Today. Chimps may be our closest living relative, but the Neanderthal is the closest relative we have that has ever lived. Katie Pollard, an associate professor at the University of California, San Francisco's Institute for Human Genetics, looks to DNA to find out what makes us human. Pollard has been comparing the genome of chimps and humans, and hopes to soon add Neanderthals into the mix.

Pollard:            The same process can be used with Neanderthal as the out group and we're starting to look at that also. There are a lot of bone samples and other researchers have recently been able to extract and sequence DNA from Neanderthal bones and get sequence for at least part of the Neanderthal genome that's of high enough quality that we can ask now, "What makes human different from Neanderthal?" And then what makes both of us either similar or different from chimp? And so that allows us to split things into events that happened from the chimp/human ancestor up to about 1 million years ago and then the things that are more recent.

Narrator:          For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.