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'Viking Disease' Hand Disorder May Come From Neanderthal Genes

16 Jun 2023 12:57 PM | Anonymous

Are the fingers on one or both of your hands permanently bent in a flexed position? If so, the reason might be because you have a lot of Northern European ancestry.

A new report in Molecular Biology and Evolution shows that a condition known as Dupuytren's disease is partly of Neanderthal origin. Researchers have long known that the disease was much more common in Northern Europeans than in those of African ancestry.

Dupuytren's disease is a disorder affecting the hand. Those who suffer from the condition eventually see their hands become bent permanently in a flexed position. Although the condition can affect any finger, the ring and middle fingers are most often afflicted. 

Scientists have previously identified several risk factors for the condition, including age, alcohol consumption, diabetes, and genetic predisposition. The new research paper claims that those are all secondary factors.

A 1999 Danish study reported 80% heritability for the condition, indicating a strong genetic influence. The condition is much more common in people of Northern European ancestry. One study estimated the prevalence of Dupuytren's disease among Norwegians over 60 years to be as much as 30%. The condition is rare, however, for those of primarily African descent.

This apparent geographic distribution has given Dupuytren's disease the nickname "Viking disease."

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