The Nobel Prize for Medicine goes to Swede Svante Pääbo, founder of paleogenomics

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The Nobel Prize in Medicine to Swede Svante Pääbo, founder of paleogenomics

The Swedish researcher Svante Pääbo, founder of paleogenomics, carried out the complete sequencing of the genome of Neanderthal man.

The Nobel Prize in Medicine crowned the pioneer of paleogenomics, the Swede Svante Pääbo, on Monday for the complete sequencing of the genome of Neanderthal man and the foundation of this discipline which goes back to the DNA of the bottom of the ages to shed light on our genes today.

By revealing the genetic differences that distinguish all living humans from extinct hominins, his discoveries provided the basis for the #x27;exploring what makes us humans such unique beings, hailed the Nobel jury.

Thanks to the sequencing of a bone found in Siberia in 2008, it also revealed the existence of another distinct and previously unknown hominin, Denisova's man, who lived in present-day Russia and Asia.

Aged 67 and based in Germany for decades – he works at the prestigious Max-Planck Institute – Svante Pääbo discovered in 2009 that a transfer of genes of the order of 2% had taken place between these hominins extinct, such as Neanderthals, and Homo sapiens.

This ancient gene flow to present-day humans has physiological relevance today, for example in affecting how our immune system responds to infections.

His work had thus recently shown that COVID-19 patients carrying a segment of Neanderthal DNA – particularly in Europe, and more notably in South Asia – inherited from a cross with the human genome there is some 60,000 years old, are at greater risk of severe complications from the disease.

Genetic differences between Homo Sapiens and our now extinct closest relatives were unknown until ;that they are identified thanks to the work of Pääbo, welcomed the Nobel committee in its decision.

67-year-old Svante Pääbo discovered in 2009 that gene transfer in the order of 2% had taken place between these extinct hominins, such as Neanderthals, and Homo sapiens.

The Swedish researcher was able to overcome the difficulties posed by the degradation of DNA in time: after thousands of years, only traces remain, moreover largely contaminated by bacteria or modern human traces.

Neanderthals cohabited for a time with modern humans in Europe before disappearing completely around 30,000 years ago, supplanted by Sapiens, with African roots.

Pääbo, a native of Stockholm, had been considered a Nobel candidate for a long time. But it had disappeared from the list of favorites in recent years.

He lives in Leipzig, so it was easy to reach him, he was not sleeping, said Thomas Perlmann, the secretary of the Nobel committee responsible for awarding the prize.

He was speechless, very happy, he asked me if he could tell his wife, I said: " ok ". He was incredibly happy.

His award opens a dynasty: his father, Sune Bergström (1916-2004), had also received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1982 for research related to hormones.

This is the natural father of Svante, who publicly explained in 2014 to be the result of an extramarital affair, hence their different names.

The reward is endowed with 10 million crowns (C$1.2 million). Winning a science Nobel on your own is becoming increasingly rare – the last time for medicine was in 2016.

The Nobel vintage continues in Stockholm on Tuesday with physics and Wednesday with chemistry, before the highly anticipated literature prizes on Thursday and peace prizes on Friday, the only award given in Oslo. The most recent economics prize closes the vintage next Monday.

With this 113th Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology, they are now 226 to have been awarded the awards since its inception, including 12 women.

No organization has ever been awarded, which is prohibited by the rules of the Karolinska Institute which awards the price.

Last year, the prize went to two Americans, David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian, for their discoveries on how touch works.

American or US-based male researchers still largely dominate the scientific Nobel prizes in recent decades, despite the efforts of juries to crown more women.

The 2021 Nobel season was no exception to the rule, with 12 winners and only one winner. All science awards had gone to men.

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