Better insights on how lactose tolerance spread across Europe

A graveyard by the river Tollense in Germany is a place where thousands of soldiers died in one of the most historic battles during the bronze age. Scientists believe that this exact fallen ground can reveal many secrets about the spread of lactose tolerance in Europe. Scientists believe that few of these fallen soldiers carried a secret weapon that gave their incoming generations the ability to digest milk. To study this, scientists from Germany looked over for a particular allele called rs4988235-A in bones of 14 Tollense warriors. The site excavated back in the 90s represents an army of thousands who fell on their feet 3200 years ago. Researchers conclude that only 7.1 percent carried the gene at that point in time.

Going by the name European lactase persistent gene helped to break down of lactose sugar even in adults. This is one of the main reasons that favored milk-based diets in day to day human life. Although scientists believe that genes originated in the middle east around 10,000 years ago before spread across the west. Experts say that this gene migrated to Europe in farming communities around 7,000 to nearly 8,000 years ago. Two hypotheses are put forth regarding the spread of these genes, one stating that the presence of this gene favored the spread of dairy farming in Europe. The other states the fact that dairy farming favored the presence of genes in Europe. Lead author Burger’s research found none of the ancestors had the gene in the first place, proving the former hypothesis wrong. But how this gene migrated to Europe is still a mystery.

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Scientists believe populations from the east brought in genes along with their practice of agriculture. To check this fact, they analyzed sequences from the same bronze age specimens from Serbia and Caspian-Steppe regions. Results showed that these specimens had a lower prevalence of gene disproving the hypothesis. Experts say that still, 90 percent of the population in this area are having this common trait, which can be a huge difference in a mere hundred generations. ‘Natural selection’ played a crucial role in the distribution of these genes in a quick time. The ability to digest milk would have favored more humans to live up to reproductive age in times of low food availability. These are very genes that are helping a lot of individuals to enjoy the scoop of ice creams across Europe. Although a lot of soldiers have fallen behind, they have left a legacy of genes to their next generations.

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Source: ScienceAlert

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