Scientist who extracted DNA from 40,000-yr-old bones wins Nobel Prize

Swedish scientist Svante Paabo won the Nobel Prize in medicine on Monday for his discoveries on human evolution that provided key insights into our immune system and what makes us unique compared with our extinct cousins, the award’s panel said.

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Paabo has spearheaded the development of new techniques that allowed researchers to compare the genome of modern humans and that of other hominins — the Neanderthals and Denisovans.

While Neanderthal bones were first discovered in the mid-19th century, only by unlocking their DNA — often referred to as the code of life — have scientists been able to fully understand the links between species.

This included the time when modern humans and Neanderthals diverged as a species, determined to be around 800,000 years ago, said Anna Wedell, chair of the Nobel Committee.

“Paabo and his team also surprisingly found that gene flow had occurred from Neanderthals to Homo sapiens, demonstrating that they had children together during periods of co-existence,” she said.

 

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