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A Molecular View of Human Uniqueness

NOMIS Project 2023

— 2028

What makes our species unique? The answer to this fundamental question must ultimately lie in our genome, and specifically in genetic changes found only in present-day humans and differing from the genome sequences of Neandertals and Denisovans, the closest evolutionary relatives of present-day humans. Genome comparisons have revealed some 35,000 such sequence changes, but the far greater challenge is to identify which of these genetic differences had truly functional consequences. The project A Molecular View of Human Uniqueness aims to answer this key question.

Using information from Neandertal DNA fragments carried by present-day people, the research team will perform functional analysis of the differences that are likely to have affected metabolism and brain function in modern humans as well as the changes that are specific to Neandertals and Denisovans. This work will contribute to our understanding of the biological functions that distinguish modern humans from their closest evolutionary relatives.

The Molecular View of Human Uniqueness research project is being led by Svante Pääbo at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, in collaboration with the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology in Okinawa, Japan.

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NOMIS Researcher(s)

Director, Department of Evolutionary Genetics
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
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