Proteomics: A novel approach for examining ancient human protein
Scientists have discovered a new way to study human evolution by analyzing ancient human proteins. By studying the proteins extracted from ancient human bones, researchers can learn more about our evolutionary history and how early humans interacted with their environment.
According to researchers, the identification of the proteins used to build the bodies of our ancestors using a novel approach called "proteomics" may shed new light on the first 2 million years of human evolution, reported The Guardian.
"We will spend the next three years carefully assessing how much protein we can get out of fossils and what we can learn from the samples we obtain," said Professor Chris Stringer from the Natural History Museum. "Hopefully, it will indicate we can learn a lot about our past by studying ancient proteins."
A handheld scanner that can scan a fossil and determine how much protein it contains will be used as part of the investigation. “In that way, we can focus on only the most promising skulls and bones,” said Stringer. “It is crucial we don’t try to take samples – no matter how small – from fossils that have no protein to offer us for study.”
Non-African heritage carries some Neanderthal genes
Proteomics has evolved due to scientists' success in analyzing DNA from prehistoric human fossils. Scientists have determined that both men and women of non-African heritage carry some Neanderthal genes by examining fragments of genetic material from relics. The genetic material discovered in tooth and bone fragments in a Siberian cave has also shown the existence of a brand-new species of early humans known as the Denisovans.
This final flaw is especially problematic when researching Homo sapiens, an African-evolved species. Due to the mild climate, ancient DNA is rarely discovered in the skulls and bones of excavations there. To examine the biology of ancient men and women, scientists have started to look at other approaches, and they have identified proteins as a crucial target.
This project offers the possibility of learning more about a number of puzzling recently found species. Among them is Homo naledi, a hominid that dates back 300,000 years and was discovered in South Africa in 2013.