In News: Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine 2022 has gone to Svante Paabo, a Swedish scientist based in Germany who is credited with developing new and innovative methodologies to extract ‘clean’ DNA from human fossils and for sequencing Neanderthal genome.
- Also discovered the existence of an unknown sub-species of the human family, now called Denisovans, who lived around the same time as the Neanderthals.
- While it is possible to extract DNA samples from fossil remains, it can be extremely difficult, mainly because of the complications in collecting their DNA.
- Similar but different techniques have been employed at the Rakhigarhi excavation project site in Haryana to find out about ancient populations in the Indian region.
Significance of the discovery:
- Earlier, scientists were studying the genomes of current human beings and extrapolating the information into the past through a method called deduction. This exercise is indirect and involves uncertainties. The new discovery has eliminated deductions, and rely on direct observation. For example, a particular skull bone, called petrous, preserves DNA better than the rest of the body.
- We now understand that archaic gene sequences from our extinct relatives influence the physiology of present-day humans. One such example is the Denisovan version of the gene EPAS1, which confers an advantage for survival at high altitude and is common among present-day Tibetans
- We now better understand human evolution and migration such as our understanding of how our immune system reacts to infections. In the 2020 paper, published in Nature, Paabo showed that one particular gene from the Neanderthals aggravated the risk of severe diseases among Covid patients.
- Establishment of an entirely new scientific discipline, paleo genomics.
- Neanderthals are modern human’s cousin species that went extinct about 30,000 years ago.
- Neanderthals and Denisovans co-existed for about 20,000 years, during which they not only interacted with each other, but also inter-bred.
- ‘Neanderthal Man’ is a book by Svante Paabo.
- 2021 recipients of Nobel Prize were David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian for their discoveries into how the human body perceives temperature and touch
About Nobel Prize:
- Nobel Prizes are a group of five separate prizes awarded to “those who have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind.
- Named after, Alfred Nobel, a Swedish chemist, engineer, and industrialist most famously known for the invention of dynamite.
- Nobel Prizes were first awarded in 1901.
- The prizes carry a cash award of 10 million Swedish kronor (nearly $900,000).
- The money comes from a bequest left by the prize’s creator, Alfred Nobel, who died in 1895.
Source: The Hindu