Svante Paabo of Sweden received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on human evolution.
According to the Prize committee, he completed the apparently impossible accomplishment of decoding the genetic code of Neanderthals, one of our extinct relatives.
Along with learning about his previously unknown cousins, the Denisovans, he also did the “sensational” thing.
His discoveries contributed to our knowledge of human evolution and worldwide migration.
The Swedish geneticist’s research gives answers to some of the most urgent questions, such as our origins and why Homo sapiens thrived while our forebears vanished.
In the 1990s, much effort was spent studying the human genetic code. However, they need freshly produced DNA samples.
Prof. Paabo was intrigued by our ancestors’ obsolete, deteriorated, and polluted genetic material. Many people thought it would be impossible. He was, however, the first to sequence DNA from a 40,000-year-old bone sample.
These discoveries indicated that Neanderthals, who lived mostly in Western Asia and Europe, were separate from both modern humans and chimpanzees.
His publications tended to concentrate on hominins, who are extinct human predecessors, as well as modern humans such as Homo sapiens.
His insights provide us with a location to start exploring into what makes us particularly human by identifying genetic characteristics that separate all living humans from extinct hominins, stated the Nobel committee.
When compared to DNA from people from all around the world, Neanderthal DNA was found to be more similar to that of people from Europe or Asia.
This reveals that after leaving Africa 70,000 years ago, Homo sapiens interbred with Neanderthals.
And the consequences are still seen today. Because 1% to 4% of our DNA is descended from Neanderthal ancestors, it affects how well our systems fight off ailments.
A Cave Ring
The next big discovery about human ancestry was made in 2008. Researchers uncovered a 40,000-year-old finger bone in a cave in Siberia.
Prof. Paabo’s ability to sequence a sample of DNA indicated that it stemmed from a previously unknown human type. They are known as Denisovans.
Denisovans and humans had offspring together, as it proved out. People having up to 6% Denisovan DNA may be found across South East Asia.
A piece of this genetic legacy is still present in Tibetans today and helps the body adapt to low oxygen levels and high altitude life.
Prof. Paabo was informed of the news this morning by Thomas Perlmann, secretary of the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine.
“He couldn’t say anything since he was so taken aback. Thrilled, “Prof. Perlmann believes
Prof. Paabo is widely acknowledged as a pioneer in the scientific field of paleogenomics. He gets ten million Swedish kronor (about £800,000). Sune Bergstrom, who got the same Nobel Prize in 1982, is his inspiration.
Neanderthals and Denisovans have already travelled from Africa to Eurasia, according to his research.
According to study, these now-extinct tribes were small and may not have been able to compete with the modern humans, who are rapidly increasing.