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Swedish scientist Svante Paabo wins Nobel Prize in Medicine for discovering mysteries of Neanderthal DNA

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Swedish scientist Svante Paabo wins Nobel Prize in Medicine for discovering mysteries of Neanderthal DNA

Swedish scientist Svante Paabo has won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for discoveries that helped explain what makes humans unique and gave key insights into our immune system, including our vulnerability to severe Coronavirus.

The prize, seemingly among the most esteemed in the scientific world, is awarded by the Nobel Assembly of Sweden’s Karolinska Institute and is worth 10 million Swedish crowns ($A1.4 million).

It is the first of the current year’s batch of prizes.

Nobel Prize in Medicine winner – Svante Paabo

Methods that Mr. Svante Paabo initiated permitted analysts to contrast the genome of modern humans with that of other hominins — the Denisovans as well as Neanderthals.

“Just as you do an archaeological excavation to find out about the past, we sort of make excavations in the human genome,” he said at a news conference held by Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig.

While Neanderthal bones were first found in the mid-19th century, simply by understanding their DNA — frequently alluded to as the code of life — have researchers had the option to completely understand the links between species?

This was incorporated when modern people and Neanderthals diverged as a species, around 800,000 years ago, said Anna Wedell, chair of the Nobel Committee.

“Paabo and his team also surprisingly found that gene flow had occurred from Neanderthals to Homo sapiens, demonstrating that they had children together during periods of co-existence,” she said.

This transfer of genes between hominin species influences how the immune system of modern humans reacts to infections, for example, Covid-19.

“We can make an average gauge of the number of the extra deaths we have had in the pandemic due to the contribution from the Neanderthals,” Mr. Svante Paabo said in a lecture this year.

“It is quite substantial, it’s more than one million extra individuals who have died due to this Neanderthal variant that they carry.”

Genetic discovery

Mr. Svante Paabo and his team figured out how to extricate DNA from a tiny finger bone found in a cave in Siberia, prompting the acknowledgment of a new species of ancient humans they called Denisovans.

Ms. Wedell referred to it as “a sensational discovery” that demonstrated Neanderthals and Denisovans to be sister groups that split from one another around 600,000 years ago.

Denisovan genes have been found in up to 6 percent of modern humans in Asia and South-East Asia, showing interbreeding happened there as well.

“By mixing with them after migrating out of Africa, Homo sapiens picked up sequences that improved their chances to survive in their new environments,” Ms Wedell said. For example, Tibetans share a gene with Denisovans that helps them adapt to high altitudes.

Dr Eric Green, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the US National Institutes of Health, called it “a great day for genomics,” a relatively young field first named in 1987.

The Human Genome project, which ran from 1990-2003, “got us the first sequence of the human genome, and we’ve improved that sequence ever since,” Mr Green said.

At the point when you sequence DNA from an ancient fossil, you just have “vanishingly small amounts” of DNA, Mr. Green said.

Among Mr. Svante Paabo’s innovations was sorting out the laboratory strategies for extricating and preserving these tiny amounts.

He was then ready to lay bits of the Neanderthal genome sequence against the human sequencing of the Human Genome Project, Mr. Green said.

Mr. Svante Paabo’s team published the first draft of a Neanderthal genome in 2009, and sequenced more than 60% of the full genome from a small sample of bone, in the wake of fighting decay and contamination from bacteria.

“We should always be proud of the fact that we sequenced our genome. But the idea that we can go back in time and sequence the genome that doesn’t live anymore and something that’s a direct relative of humans is truly remarkable,” Mr. Green said.

Mr. Svante Paabo said they found during the pandemic that “the greatest risk factor to become severely ill and even die when you’re infected with the virus has come over to modern people from Neanderthals.

“So we and others are now intensely studying the Neanderthal version versus the protective modern version to try to understand what the functional difference would be.”

Mr. Svante Paabo’s most referred paper in the Web of Science was published in 1989, with 4,077 citations, said David Pendlebury, from UK-based scientific data analytics provider Clarivate.

“Only some 2,000 papers out of 55 million published since 1970 have been cited this many times,” he said.

Mr. Svante Paabo’s father, Sune Bergstrom, won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1982. It is the eighth time the son or daughter of a Nobel laureate likewise won a Nobel Prize.

The medicine prize started a week of Nobel Prize declarations.

It continues on Tuesday with the physics prize, chemistry on Wednesday, and literature on Thursday.

Interesting Facts about Polish vaccine inventor Rudolf Weigl

Last year’s medicine prize went to Americans David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian for the discovery of receptors in the human skin that sense temperature and touch, changing over the physical effect into nerve impulses.

Past winners in the field incorporate a string of famous scientists, eminently Alexander Fleming, who shared the 1945 prize for the discovery of penicillin, and Robert Koch, who won currently in 1905 for his examinations of tuberculosis.

The Nobel Peace Prize will be declared on Friday and the economics award on October 10.

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