Svante Pääbo receives Nobel Prize in Medicine

Svante Pääbo was conferred the Nobel Prize in Medicine on October 3, 2022.

Key facts

  • Svante Pääbo received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his pioneering works in the field of paleogenomics – a branch of science dealing with the reconstruction and analysis of genomic information obtained extinct species.
  • The most notable achievements of this Swedish geneticist the sequencing of the entire genome of Neanderthal and the discovery of Denisova – an extinct hominin species.
  • He also discovered that genes from the extinct hominins were transferred to Homo Sapiens after they left Africa some 70,000 years ago.
  • This discovery of Denisova has modern significance since, the EPAS1 gene found in these hominins was found to provide the capacity to survive in high altitude. This gene is common among Tibetans.
  • As a postdoctoral student, Pääbo helped in the development of methods to conduct scientific research of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) from Neanderthals in collaboration with Allan Wilson, major pioneer in the field of human evolution.
  • Pääbo continued the research on archaic DNA in 1990, when he was recruited as a professor in the University of Munich.
  • He was able to sequence a part of mitochondrial genome from a 40,000-year-old piece of bone using the methods he refined.
  • The use of mitochondrial genome increases the chances of success because it exists in thousands of copies.
  • His research provided the access to a genome sequence from an extinct human relative for the first time.
  • This genome was compared with the modern-day humans and chimpanzees and it was found that Neanderthal was genetically unique from these two species.
  • Pääbo was also able to successfully sequence the nuclear genomes of Neanderthal and publish it in 2010 at the New Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany.
  • This led to discovery that the most recent common ancestor of Neanderthal and present-day humans roamed the Earth 800,000 years ago.

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