Svante Pääbo, the researcher of ancestral DNA

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Svante Pääbo, the researcher of ancestral DNA

The Nobel Prize for Medicine 2022, Svante Pää bo, the Swedish-born scientist who has dedicated his life to the analysis of DNA from ancient samples, especially human ones, was already awarded the 2018 Princess of Asturias Award in 2018. His work for more than 30 years It has allowed us to study thegenetic composition of animals and plants that lived thousands of years ago and in particular the evolution of the human species. With his work, a new door has been opened to the study of qu & eacute; Changes have occurred in the DNA that have made us the way we are.

When we talk about ancient DNA we talk about Svante Pääbo. In 1985 we find his first article, signed by solo and published in the magazine 'Nature'. It was the DNA isolate from an Egyptian mummy. At that time thatseemed like a curiosity and was viewed with some skepticism. He had to develop methods that would allow, first, to isolate samples of DNA from ancient human remains that degrade over time and are found in small fragments. Second, this DNA had to be prevented from becoming contaminated with modern DNA. Finally, it must be able to analyze it, and in this thenew massive DNA analysis techniques and its bioinformatic treatment have been essential. It has already shown that DNA over 400,000 years old can be analyzed.

These data are undoubtedly a technological milestone in itself. But it has allowed us to discover the DNA of organisms that lived thousands of years ago. and so on now we know what the genome of extinct animals, such as the mammoth, or of plants before they were domesticated, was like. is Clearly, however, what has been of most interest are the results on the human species. Great milestones have been the resolution of the Neanderthal genome or the discovery of another species, related to this one, that lived in Siberia extracting DNA from the bone of a little finger. Pääbo currently runs a Max-Planck Institute in Leipzig and remains at the center of discoveries of what living organisms were like thousands of years ago. In this way he has put DNA not only at the center of biology but also of ancient history.

A first version of this profile was published on June 10 2018 on the occasion of the Princess of Asturias award


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