30 November, 2022

Nobel Prize in Medicine 2022, for Swedish biologist Svante Pääbo, for researching human evolution

Nobel Prize Week 2022 has arrived. The Nobel Assembly of the Karolinska Institute, has started revealing this year's winners.

Editorial Dept. Voz de la Diaspora

Science – This Monday the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded 2022, The Nobel Assembly of the Karolinska Institute writes in its statement that it has decided to award this merit to Svante Pääbo, a Swedish biologist who conducted pioneering research on human evolution.

Svante Pääbo accomplished a task that was thought impossible, decipher the genome of one of our extinct relatives, the neanderthal. Although it is true that modern genetic methods for the study of DNA facilitate this task, the reality is that sequencing genomic DNA recovered from archaic specimens poses some really significant technical challenges.

Over time, DNA is chemically modified and degraded into short fragments.. After thousands of years, only traces of DNA remain, and what remains is massively contaminated with DNA from bacteria and contemporary humans”, it is described in The Nobel Prize. In this way, it is easy to imagine the challenges that the biologist had to overcome during his research that lasted several decades.

His success began when he succeeded in sequencing a region of the Neanderthal mitochondrial genome from a bone of 40,000 years of antiguaty. It is true that these DNA fragments are small and, Thus, genetic information is limited, but as we well know, It is present in thousands of copies in every cell., so just these characteristics allowed him to decipher, for the first time in science, a sequence from an extinct relative.

That first step was decisive in proposing the challenge of sequencing the Neanderthal nuclear genome., which would take a lot of hard work. Finally, after the constant improvement of the methods to isolate, analyze and sequence the DNA of bone remains thousands of years old, at 2010 Pääbo managed to obtain the first sequence of the Neanderthal genome, a scientific milestone.

Finally, all the extraordinary work carried out by Pääbo made it possible to determine that a specialty was needed within science, A) Yes, an entirely new scientific discipline was established, paleogenomics, that allows us to understand human migration and evolution through the genetic sequencing of archaic remains of our relatives.