July 18, 2024

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Scientist Svante Pääbo of Sweden receives the Medicine Nobel Prize for sequencing the Neanderthal DNA

Svante Paabo, a Swedish paleogeneticist who analysed Neanderthal DNA and identified the previously unidentified hominid Denisova, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine on Monday.

Paleogenomics is a brand-new field of study created as a result of Paabo’s work, which has “produced new insights into our evolutionary history,” according to the study.

The Nobel committee stated that his studies “give the basis for understanding what makes us uniquely human by identifying genetic characteristics that distinguish all living humans from extinct hominins.”

The founder and current director of the genetics department of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology discovered that gene transmission from these now-extinct hominins to modern humans had taken place after their departure from Africa around 70,000 years ago.

Paabo, 67, will receive the prize from King Carl XVI Gustaf in a formal ceremony in Stockholm on December 10, the anniversary of the death of scientist Alfred Nobel in 1896, who established the prizes in his will and testament. Paabo will receive an award sum of 10 million Swedish kronor ($901,500).

DNA from archaic specimens with only trace amounts of DNA remaining after thousands of years has to be sequenced in order to explore the link between modern humans and extinct Neanderthals.

Paabo and his team were able to demonstrate that Neanderthal DNA sequences were more akin to modern human DNA from Europe or Asia than from Africa.

One to four percent of the genomes of modern European or Asian humans is Neanderthal-derived.

In 2008, the sequencing of a 40,000-year-old bone fragment that had been discovered in the Denisova cave in southern Siberia by Paabo and his team was completed.

A previously unidentified hominid that Paabo had found was given the name Denisova.

The announcement of the winners of the Physics Prize on Tuesday and the Chemistry Prize on Wednesday will mark the continuation of the Nobel season this week.

On Thursday and Friday, respectively, come the much-awaited awards for literature and peace; and on Monday, October 10, the Economics Prize brings everything to a close.