Almut Nebel

Please contact Almut for further information on the project:

Study of metabolic (mal-) adaptation in humans by ancient DNA analysis

Ancient DNA (aDNA) research is an exciting, cutting-edge field that offers revolutionary insights into major developments that have shaped human evolutionary history including the emergence of diseases that afflict people today. In the proposed project, the PhD candidate will generate and analyze genomic information of humans who lived in the Neolithic Period (ca. 5000 years BCE). This period marks a major transition in prehistory when agriculture, animal husbandry and a sedentary lifestyle were introduced. One important characteristic of the Neolithic lifeway was the consumption of a new diet rich in cereals as well as in animal (milk) proteins and fat - a nutrition our ancestors were genetically not adapted to after millions of years as hunter-gatherers. The PhD candidate will extract aDNA from hundreds of human skeletal remains in a clean room (wet lab work) and do in-depth statistical and/or bioinformatic analyses of the generated high-throughput sequencing data. In particular, the data will be investigated for genes and variants that are known to be involved in metabolic processes and metabolic diseases today. The aim is 1) to assess to what extent humans have successfully adapted to the Neolithic dietary changes and 2) to identify mismatches between genetic variation and diet which contribute e.g. to obesity, cardiovascular or inflammatory diseases in present-day populations.

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