Tuesday, October 4, 2022

2022 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Biodiversity, Biological Evolution, Paleontology

Ed Hessler 

I think that the award of the Nobel Prize to Svante Paabo  in Physiology or Medicine (2022), is the first time an evolutionary biologist has been honored. Others have been nominated, e.g., Theodosius Dobzhansky but he died before the nomination was submitted. (Nobel prizes are not awarded posthumously). He was certainly deserving. Many of us know the famous epigram, "Nothing in Biology makes sense except in the light of evolution." It was published in The American Biology Teacher, 1973.

This essay from Quanta Magazine is by staff writer Yasemin Saplakoglu describes his pioneering work includes sequencing the entire Neanderthal genome and discovering a new ancient human group, the Denisovans. As a result of his work we have a fuller understanding of our evolutionary history and it also provided more evidence for the fact of evolution.

Here are the main divisions following a splendid introduction, next to which is a timeline of Paabo's findings.

--Why is studying ancient DNA so difficult?

--How did Svante Paabo revolutionized the field.?

--When did modern humans, Neanderthals and Denisovans diverge?

--Why did Neanderthals go extinct?

--How were the Denisovans discovered? (There are two photographs of an excavation of Denisova Cave Siberia, including the bone fragment. Note its size, i.e., it was small, perhaps 2 cm (~ 0.79) long)

--What can ancient genetic variants teach us about modern physiology? (includes a diagram of our revised family history).

--Who won the Nobel Prizes in Physiology of Medicine in recent years? (from 2017 to present, which includes the discoveries).

The scientific background for Paabo's discoveries concerning the genomes of extinct hominins and human evolution is linked in Saplakogu's essay but important enough that I highlight it again. It includes many details and will give you further appreciation for the scientific work.

Here are two videos, one of the prize announcement (44m) and the other an interview about the awarded work (5m 27s).

Here is the press release which opens with "The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet has today decided to award the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to Svante Paabo."

And finally, the summary

The bar topping these pages includes links to Nobel Prizes & Laureates, Nominations, Alfred Nobel. News & Insights, Events, Educational.

And as a matter of general interest and information, STAT's Megan Molteni added a note about this year's list of predicted front runner -the mRNA technology behind Covid-19 vaccines. Thomas Perlmann, secretary of the Nobel Assembly  responded to the expected question saying “'That is a very good question that I’m not going to answer. We only talk about people who get the Nobel Prize.'”

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