Are We Really Similar to Neanderthals?

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There is always this question of why humans are deemed to be the vastly superior race. Religion aside, we turn to science to uncover the mysteries as to why the humankind is so special, especially when it comes to our cognition.

Svante Pääbo, director of the genetics department at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, posed the very same question, which is why he spearheaded the use of human stem cells, edited in such a way that will create miniature brains that will contain Neanderthal DNA.

Pääbo and his team have already harvested Neanderthal genes that will be used for developing the skull and face and it will then be inserted into mice. His team has also extracted genes that are responsible for pain perception from the DNA of Neanderthals and it has been genetically altered to reflect or become the same as frogs’ genomes. This move will help determine whether humans or Neanderthals both have the same pain thresholds or not.


According to recent research, Neanderthals are believed to draw some cave art. They were also believed to have buried their dead and biologically, they have much bigger brains than the conventional human.

With Pääbo’s research, they will be able to know if connections between electrical activity, nerve cells, and early brain development in Neanderthals are pretty much the same as modern humans.

Pääbo’s curiosity leads him to believe if there is really something underneath a Neanderthal’s biology that sets it apart from the modern man. He also wants to answer if there really is a biological basis as to why the modern man went on to produce billions of offsprings and have created vast different cultures as well.