Nobel Prize in Medicine: Here’s What You Need to Know

By Ashritha Raghavendra

October 08, 2022

The Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine was awarded to Svante Pääbo — a Swedish geneticist — for his work on extinct hominins and human evolution. In 2010, his work on sequencing revealed the Neanderthal genome. 

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Genome Sequencing

A laboratory method that is used to determine the entire genetic makeup of a specific organism or cell type. The results of genomic sequencing can be used to diagnose and treat diseases.

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A Challenging Feat

The process of amplifying and sequencing ancient DNA is a herculean task as DNA is susceptible to contamination from microbes. Svante’s meticulously designed rooms protected fossil samples from the genetic material of living humans. 

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Outstanding Outcomes

Dr Svante’s work provides insight into our immune system. It studies the genetic differences between modern humans and the Neanderthals and Denisovans. His research helps us understand the role of genetics in diseases, including COVID-19.

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Vulnerable Inheritance

In 2020, Dr Pääbo and his colleague discovered that people who inherited a common stretch of Neanderthal DNA were more at risk of suffering from severe symptoms when infected by the coronavirus.

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Tracing Ancestral Footsteps

During his research, Pääbo found an extinct hominin — the Denisovans. In addition, he also dated the extinction of Neanderthals to 30,000 years ago after sequencing the mitochondrial DNA from a 40,000-year-old bone.

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A Milestone In Microbiology

Pääbo’s work shines light on the extinct species of the human lineage. It also tracks the genetic flow across human evolution that lead to the DNA composition of the modern human.

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A Pioneer in Paleogenomics

Paleogenomics is the study and analysis of genes of ancient or extinct organisms. Svante Pääbo’s research and recognition have fuelled great interest in this novel scientific discipline. 

 Image Source: Max Planck Institute For Evolutionary Anthropology