Oct 7, 2022

Ancient DNA Hunter Who Sequenced First Neanderthal Genome Wins Nobel Prize for Medicine

Swedish geneticist Svante Pääbo has won the Nobel Prize for medicine for pioneering the use of ancient DNA to unlock secrets about human evolution.

The Nobel Committee said Monday that Pääbo “accomplished something seemingly impossible” when he sequenced the first Neanderthal genome and revealed that Homo sapiens interbred with Neanderthals. His discovery was made public in 2010, after Pääbo pioneered methods to extract, sequence and analyze ancient DNA from Neanderthal bones. Thanks to his work, scientists can compare Neanderthal genomes with the genetic records of humans living today.

“Pääbo’s seminal research gave rise to an entirely new scientific discipline; paleogenomics,” the committee said. “By revealing genetic differences that distinguish all living humans from extinct hominins, his discoveries provide the basis for exploring what makes us uniquely human.”

Pääbo found that most present-day humans share 1% to 4% of their DNA with Neanderthals, meaning Neanderthals and Homo sapiens must have encountered one another and had children before Neanderthals went extinct around 40,000 years ago.

He has worked as the director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany since 1997, and is an Honorary Research Fellow at London’s Natural History Museum.

“His major contribution is being a pioneer in recovering ancient DNA and that has been extremely important in the study of human evolution.” Chris Stringer, research lead in human evolution at that museum.

You can read a lot more in an article by Rob Picheta and Katie Hunt published in the CNN web site at:

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