It must have been all those National Geographic Magazines I devoured as a child but I’ve always been fascinated by the Neanderthals. Much has been learned recently about our ancient “ancestors” with whom we share some DNA. I was delighted to learn that a Swedish scientist has received the 2022 Nobel prize in Medicine for his findings, summarized here:
“For the first time, a Nobel Prize recognized the field of anthropology, the study of humanity. Svante Pääbo, a pioneer in the study of ancient DNA, or aDNA, was awarded the 2022 prize in physiology or medicine for his breathtaking achievements sequencing DNA extracted from ancient skeletal remains and reconstructing early humans’ genomes – that is, all the genetic information contained in one organism.
“His accomplishment was once only the stuff of Jurassic Park-style science fiction. But Pääbo and many colleagues, working in large multidisciplinary teams, pieced together the genomes of our distant cousins, the famous Neanderthals and the more elusive Denisovans, whose existence was not even known until their DNA was sequenced from a tiny pinky bone of a child buried in a cave in Siberia. Thanks to interbreeding with and among these early humans, their genetic traces live on in many of us today, shaping our bodies and our disease vulnerabilities – for example, to COVID-19.”
Read more about it in The Conversation, a publication that sweeps the literature for outstanding papers by academic researchers with deep expertise in their subjects, sharing their knowledge in their own words.