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The Editorial Analysis- Exhuming New Light

Nobel Prize for Medicine 2022- Relevance for UPSC Exam

  • GS Paper 3: Science and Technology- Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

The Editorial Analysis- Exhuming New Light_3.1



Nobel Prize for Medicine 2022 in News

  • The Nobel Prize for Medicine this year will be awarded to Svante Pääbo, a Swedish geneticist and a director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.



Nobel Prize for Medicine 2022- Svante Pääbo

  • Science being of an increasingly collaborative and competitive nature, recent trends in Nobel Prizes suggest that there are usually multiple winners for every prize.
  • It is a tribute to the originality and revolutionary implications of Pääbo’s research that in a world perennially reshaped by advances in biology, he has been chosen as the lone winner of the Medicine or Physiology Prize this year.
    • This is something not witnessed since 2016.


Svante Pääbo’s Research on Human Evolution

  • Pääbo brought Neanderthals- believed to be among the many human-like species and losers of the evolutionary race- to the centre on the question of human evolution.
  • Thanks to his work, it is now known that Europeans and Asians carry anywhere between 1%-4% of Neanderthal DNA.
  • Thus, a large fraction of humanity will be influenced in terms of propensity to disease and adaptability to conditions by a species that evolved, like humans, in Africa, but 1,00,000 years earlier.
  • Pääbo demonstrated this by pioneering and perfecting techniques to extract DNA from fossil remains, a herculean task as they contain too little and are easily contaminated.
  • By building on these methods, Pääbo and his colleagues eventually published the first Neanderthal genome sequence in 2010.
  • To put that in perspective, the first complete sequence of the human genome was only completed in 2003.
  • Comparative analyses with the human genome demonstrated that the most recent common ancestor of Neanderthals and Homo sapiens lived around 8,00,000 years ago;
    • That both species frequently lived in proximity and interbred to an extent that the Neanderthal genetic stamp lives on.
  • In 2008, a 40,000-year-old fragment from a finger bone yielded DNA that, in Pääbo’s lab, turned out to be from an entirely new species of hominin called Denisova.
    • This was the first time that a new species had been discovered based on DNA analysis.
  • Further analysis showed that it too had interbred with humans and 6% of human genomes in parts of South East Asia are of Denisovan ancestry.



  • These discoveries throw up philosophical questions on what it means to be a ‘species’.
  • Pääbo’s win must inspire future biologists in India to pursue deep questions and use science to shed new light rather than compartmentalise themselves in an academic straitjacket.


Genome Editing and CRISPR-CAS9: Definition | Working | Advantages | Challenges

Genome Editing and CRISPR-CAS9: Definition | Working | Advantages | Challenges

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