An "immune gene" was discovered in Neanderthals by a research group at Bonn University and international collaborators.
The researchers found a novel receptor, which allows the immune system of modern humans to recognize dangerous invaders, and subsequently elicits an immune response.
The blueprint for this advantageous structure was in addition identified in the genome of Neanderthals, hinting at its origin.
The receptor provided these early humans with immunity against local diseases.
The presence of this receptor in Europeans but its absence in early men suggests that it was inherited from Neanderthals.
The results have been published online in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.