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Nobel Prize in Medicine for Research on Early Humans

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  • Published
    4th Oct, 2022


Swedish scientist Svante Pääbo won the Nobel Prize in medicine for his discoveries on human evolution. 

  • The award was given for his discoveries concerning the genomes of extinct hominins and human evolution.

About his research

  • Svante Pääbo sequenced the genome of the Neanderthal, an extinct relative of present-day humans. 
  • He also made the sensational discovery of a previously unknown hominin, Denisova.
    • Importantly, he also found that gene transfer had occurred from these now extinct hominins to Homo sapiens following the migration out of Africa around 70,000 years ago. 
    • This ancient flow of genes to present-day humans has physiological relevance today, for example affecting how our immune system reacts to infections.
  • In 1990, Pääbo was recruited to the University of Munich, where, as a newly appointed Professor, he continued his work on archaic DNA. 
  • He decided to analyze DNA from Neanderthal mitochondria – organelles in cells that contain their own DNA. 
    • The mitochondrial genome is small and contains only a fraction of the genetic information in the cell, but it is present in thousands of copies, increasing the chance of success.

About Nobel Prize 

  • On 27 November 1895, Alfred Nobel signed his last will and testament, giving the largest share of his fortune to a series of prizes in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace – the Nobel Prizes. 
    • In 1968, Sveriges Riksbank (Sweden’s central bank) established The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.
  • It was first awarded in 1901.
  • It is an international award administered by the Nobel Foundation in Stockholm, Sweden, and based on the fortune of Alfred Nobel, a Swedish inventor and entrepreneur.
  • The prestigious award comes with a gold medal and 10 million Swedish kronor (over $1.14 million).

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